Art Dictionary

Rosemarie Trockel

Biography

Rosemarie Trockel (*1952 in Schwerte) studied painting at the Kölner Werkschule under Professor Werner Schriefers from 1974 to 1978. Her early days in art were spent in the immediate proximity of the "Mühlheimer Freiheit," the artist's group in Cologne. She has been a professor at the Staatliche Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf since 1998. The artist lives and works in Cologne. Her work has been awarded numerous prizes, including the 2011 Kaiserring from the city of Goslar, which is one of the best-known prizes for contemporary art in the world.

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Rosemarie Trockel

Rosemarie Trockel
Zeichnungen, Collagen und Buchentwürfe

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ISBN 978-3-7757-2612-2
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Rosemarie Trockel

Rosemarie Trockel

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ISBN 978-3-7757-2926-0
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Rosemarie Trockel
Ebook

Rosemarie Trockel
(dOCUMENTA (13): 100 Notes - 100 Thoughts, 100 Notizen - 100 Gedanken # 077)

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Man / Woman, Human / Animal, Politics / Art

»I believe that art is important to everyone. Of course, many people never or hardly ever go to a museum. But art creates a climate in society from which everyone benefits. And by that, I don’t just mean the artists whose works deal with political ideas. Good art creates a climate of tolerance in general, and the kind of understanding that is important to a community. Furthermore, it is of incalculable worth to the development of the person who studies it. Along with music and literature, it is a vital necessity of life.« (Rosemarie Trockel)

Her contribution to the documenta X in 1997 drew international attention: theHaus für Schweine und Menschen (House for Pigs and People), which Rosemarie Trockel and Carsten Höller realized together. In one half of the concrete structure in the Karlsaue in Kassel, a small herd of pigs was kept, while the other half was open to documenta X visitors. The sheet of glass separating the two parts of the building was mirrored on one side. In this way, people could observe the pigs, which were kept in almost luxurious surroundings, with an installed shower, but the animals could not see the people. “A reality soap, coming from a paradise for pigs,” wrote DIE ZEIT—a kind of utopian alternative to the otherwise terrible realities of life for livestock.

Humans, animals, and their ambivalent relationship to each other have played a special role in earlier works by Rosemarie Trockel. Apart from the many animal films that she has made since the late 1970s, she has also developed other “protective houses” for animals, working with Carsten Höller, for instance, to make Augapfel – Haus für Taube, Mensch und Ratte (Eyeball – House for Pigeons, People, and Rats) for the Expo 2000 in Hannover. She has also cast diverse kinds of animals in bronze for her series Gewohnheitstiere (Creatures of Habit). “Every animal is a woman artist,” goes one of Trockel’s provocative sayings, alluding to Joseph Beuys’s famous adages, “Every man is an artist.”

Trockel’s oeuvre spans a broad range of media, from drawings, collages, and book designs to sculptures, ceramics, videos, and installations, but it is her knitting pictures that have become a kind of brand. From the mid-1980s onward, they added a cryptic sense of irony to the cliché of women’s art made with supposedly inferior materials. The artist created the designs—often with culturally and politically fraught motifs such as the Playboy bunny or the hammer and sickle; they were then machine-knitted in wool, then hung on the wall like paintings. In the 1990s she created many of the so-called stove burner works; like her knitted pictures, they cited many instances from a constantly changing and (male-influenced) art history.

Through the knitted pictures and the stove burner works, the conceptual artist’s entire oeuvre has often been read as a critical commentary on the traditional images and roles of women in society and art, as well as the attempt to deconstruct them. Yet, Trockel’s work—as, for example, her pieces with and about animals show—goes beyond the feminist gesture. “I’ve always examined theories of anthropology, sociology, and science; I was interested in the histories of these theories, in observing that each and every theory is outmoded after hardly more than a century. The only thing I can do, I think, is to try to work out my idea of the world or art—they’re identical, to me—with whatever kind of curious things I can,” said the artist in one of her rare statements on her own work.

After Trockel’s first solo shows in 1983 in Bonn and Cologne, her work became highly regarded, primarily in the United States; in 1988, for instance, she exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and in 1991, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. After participating in the documenta X in 1997, Trockel designed the German pavilion for the 1999 Venice Biennial, and her work can be seen in the 2012 dOCUMENTA (13). In 2003 the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt devoted a large show to her art, and the Ludwig Museum in Cologne did the same in 2005/06—to name just a few of the places in which the artist’s multifaceted oeuvre has found worldwide recognition.

June 6, 2012 Stefanie Gommel

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