This past Friday evening I went to the Museum of Modern Art with friends to see the Martin Kippenberger show. The show was billed as a comprehensive retrospective, but it was hardly that. It was more of mixed survey of his work, with a few gems. The MoMA's show is a scaled-down version of an earlier show at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angles.
Kippenberger, for me, is a mentor figure. He always offers something to latch on to as an artist. His work seems to move in and out of the stream of visual art over the last fifty years or so. His style and the haphazard way he went about creating work is what intrigues me. He is dead-on at times, and at other times way off the mark. But his risk-taking took guts.
In 2003 I went to Karlsruhe Germany to see his retrospective exhibition at the Centre for Arts and Media (ZKM) Kurst (I had come across his work a few years earlier, in 2000). I believe it was the largest ever exhibit of his oeuvre. The only major work missing from the Karlsruhe’s show was his large-scale installation piece "The Happy End of Franz Kafka’s 'Amerika,” a piece made up of many different cast-off furniture pieces: desks, tables and chairs arranged in a large room on green Astroturf. It was an extremely unconventional piece, and intrigued me, so I was disappointed that it was missing from the Karlsruhe show. Fortunately, "The Happy End" makes an appearance in the MOMA’s show; it's the centerpiece, displayed prominently at the entrance to the museum's galleries.
I like Kippenberger's ideas about art. He seems to break the rules, while keeping the rules of art in mind. It may be an illusion, which is what makes his works all the more interesting. I also like his sense of color and how he used the geometry of the picture plane to structure the senseless space in his pictures. This senseless space is undefined, yet has a natural feeling of ‘grounding’ the picture. I also think his work involves a ‘risk factor,’ the idea that art can be anything the artist feels, thinks, observes, or wants, however obvious or absurd. He had--and he gives to me--a sense of freedom to create, with out the baggage of the history of art.