Rosemarie Trockel

(b. 1952)

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(1952– )

German painter and sculptor. Born in Schwerte, she lives and works in Cologne. She originally intended to study as a biologist but turned to art and trained at the Werkkunstschule in Cologne. At this time she suffered from agoraphobia and she found it extremely difficult to leave her apartment. German painting in the early 1980s was dominated by the overwhelmingly male Neo-Expressionists, although the painters with whom she associated in Cologne, such as Walter Dahn and Martin Kippenberger, took a more ironic stance towards the activity of painting. Some of her work during this time was based on knitting. This is, of course, stereotypically a feminine activity, but Trockel undermined the associations in two ways. First she used a computerized knitting process, so removing it from craft to industry. Second she introduced motifs such as the hammer and sickle or the Playboy logo. Sometimes the knitted pieces are displayed like painted panels on the wall, but certain works can be worn, for instance as balaclava helmets. Trockel has never been an easy artist to pin down and at an early stage she clearly rejected the idea of a ‘signature style’: a spread on her work published in Flash Art in May 1987 reproduces a knitted piece, a painting (presumably a self-portrait although this is unspecified) and a vitrine rather in the manner of Joseph Beuys. Writers on Trockel have tended to see her early work as unified by feminist preoccupations with the image of woman, but there has been less agreement as to the meaning of her later work. Rachel Withers reported on a 1998 exhibition in London at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, in which much of the work was based on eggs, that it had ‘left UK critics cold and visitors baffled’. However, in Germany, Trockel is one of the best-known contemporary artists.

Further Reading

‘Rosemarie Trockel talks to Isabelle Graw’, Artforum (March 2003)R. Withers, ‘Rosemarie Trockel’, Artforum (March 1999)

Subjects: Art.

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