Rosemarie Trockel (b. 1952)
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Rosemarie Trockel (b. 1952)

Made in Western Germany

Rosemarie Trockel (b. 1952)
Made in Western Germany
knitted wool
98 1/2 x 71 in. (250 x 180 cm.)
Executed in 1987. This work is number three from an edition of three.
Monica Sprüth Gallery, Cologne
Private collection, Milan
Anon. sale; Christie's, New York, 17 November 2000, lot 420
Skarstedt Gallery, New York
Private collection, New York
Anon. sale; Christie's, New York, 08 May 2016, lot 29
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
H. Kontova and G. Politi, eds., Flash Art, no. 134, May 1987 (illustrated in color on the cover).
A. C. Danto, Embodied Meanings: Critical Essays and Aesthetic Meditations, New York, 1994, pp. 215-216.
M. Dávila, ed., MACBA Collection: Itinerary, Barcelona, 2002, pp. 157 and 207 (another example illustrated in color).
G. Williams and S. Eiblmayr, eds., Rosemarie Trockel: Post-Menopause, Cologne, 2006, p. 165 (another example illustrated).
L. Cooke, "Reworked," Artforum, vol. 51, no. 1, September 2012, p. 523.
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Lot Essay

Rosemarie Trockel’s work has the rare ability to turn complex visual, cultural, and societal notions on their head using elegantly inventive means. Made in Western Germany, from 1987, is part of the artist’s celebrated series of machine-spun wool paintings, which have played a major role in any dialogue surrounding her contribution to recent art history. While Trockel is known for expressing herself inventively across a range of different media, the wool paintings stand out as a hallmark of her signature style and unique voice. Her talent for presenting the familiar in new and surprising ways carries with it a rich source of concepts, visual references, and unmatched originality. In a recent issue of the noted art journal Cahiers d’Art, the writer notes that “in a single work Trockel is likely to offer a multifocal view— conflating conceptual problems and material properties, notions of male and female, female and feminist, natural and constructed worlds, sciences and arts, everyday objects and emblematic art-historical references—as she also turns a critical eye to her own work while setting out constellations of personal cosmology” (J. Simon, “What-if could-be”, Cahiers d’Art, no. 1-2, 2013, pp. 60-61). With Made in Western Germany, Trockel exemplifies these qualities and the work exists as a quintessential example of her enormous influence and stature among artists working today.

The compositional simplicity of Made in Western Germany reveals its intended meaning in layers. The entire knit surface of the work at first almost seems to blend together in a sequence of vertical and horizontal segments. With further inspection, we register the phrase “Made in Western Germany,” which is repeated over and over again in staggered lines that span the entire surface of the knitted surface. The patterns of all-caps knit text appear and reinforce themselves like a slogan. This repeated motif of a simple series of letters, strung together as an endless statement, carries with it a bold visual taxonomy. The echoed statement is repeated with mechanical precision and unvarying reinforcement. Indeed, Trockel used industrial methods to create her most celebrated knitted paintings, which have been central to her practice since the mid-1980s. Her choice of material is deliberate in its connotations of feminine artistry and serves as a deliberate rebuttal against the stereotypes that have constrained women artists over the centuries. This longstanding commitment to a conscious appropriation of unconventional materials is one that continues to feel new and bold today.

Trockel’s wool paintings began in 1984, when she initially employed the labor of home weavers she had found through local want ads. The following year, as her production and ambitions increased, and the symbolism of these works became more clearly defined, she began having them industrially produced. With this, her artistic efforts were accentuated through technological means as she brilliantly juxtaposed her use of a typically male-oriented tool like an industrial machine to create a commentary on female-oriented creativity. As her work continued to evolve, she experimented with different forms of messaging, from text to corporate logos and abstraction, and with variations in format, where she expanded the knit works to include garments like balaclavas, stockings, or sweaters. Made in Western Germany is one of the purest manifestations of this exploration for its use of text, personal significance, and aesthetic qualities. While Trockel actively worked in a variety of media, the wool paintings have functioned as a consistent form of expression for the artist, and to this day remain the works for which she has received the most acclaim. Throughout Trockel’s career there has been a consistent drive to mix conventional art forms with unconventional materials, and to take a taxonomic approach to articulating her opinions on culture, gender, commerce, and industrial practices.

The title, Made in Western Germany, can be understood on several levels. Its significance speaks as much to the source of the work as object as the artist’s personal history. At the same time, the “Made in Western Germany” line is one that calls to mind industrial and manufacturing processes, where a commodity’s origin serves as a signifier of its quality and value; indeed, the title itself is something of a construct, as Western Germany is not the correct name of the country in which she was born. Growing up in West Germany after World War II, Trockel was confronted with a very specific set of experiences that related to her geographical situation and position as a woman artist. When she began her studies, the main figures in German art were Gerhard Richter, Anselm Kiefer, and Sigmar Polke, all of whom had grown out of the legacy established by Joseph Beuys. Yet at the same time, as a female artist, Trockel sought to differentiate herself and her message from that context. In that sense, her work also plays into a larger global dialogue around culture and the ingrained stereotypes of artistic practice that were being similarly explored at that time by artists like Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, and Cindy Sherman. Trockel’s fascination with patterns, visual messaging, and strong statements, are tools she and her American contemporaries used to further the discussion on the place women occupy in art history. Her unique position allowed her to engage in artistic discourse that responded directly to her environment in a way that brilliantly merged her perspective as a German woman making art in the ‘80s, and beyond.

Trockel’s stature in the contemporary art world has grown exponentially in recent years. 1999 proved to be a watershed year for the artist as she came to international attention when she represented Germany at the Venice Biennale, the first female artist to do so for that country. In the intervening years, she has been the subject of countless solo and group exhibitions across the world. In 2012-13 the exhibition Rosemarie Trockel: A Cosmos, which was organized by the Reina Sofía in Madrid, and then travelled to the Serpentine Gallery in London, and the New Museum in New York, brought her work to an increasingly wide audience. While Trockel continues to make work and exhibit with galleries across the globe, Made in Western Germany stands out as a seminal work in the artist’s career, and an artistic milestone in its convergence of key themes that have defined her career to date.

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