Eifrau die man nicht schubladieren kann (Egg woman who defies categorization), 1996
Martin Kippenberger (25 February 1953 – 7 March 1997) was a German artist known for his extremely prolific output in a wide range of styles and media as well as his provocative, jocular and hard-drinking public persona.
Kippenberger’s refusal to adopt a specific style and medium in which to disseminate his images resulted in an extremely prolific and varied oeuvre which includes an amalgam of sculpture, paintings, works on paper, photographs, installations, prints and ephemera.
Untitled (Showcase with egg sculptures) close-up, 1996
I, if I may be so bold, think that Kippenberger is really about eggs. Eggs in the shell and eggs in their more exposed form, usually fried, generally sunny-side up. They pop up everywhere in his work. You might find an egg in the corner of an oil painting. The model of a fried egg can be found in the huge Kafka installation. Drawings of fried and whole eggs pop up here and there in his nearly infinite series of stuff-drawn-on-mixed-media. Importantly, you will never find scrambled eggs in the work of Kippenberger.
The egg, as we all know, is beautiful. There are few things more satisfying than its oblong sphericality. Held in the palm of your hand, there is a pleasant weightiness and texture. The hardness of the shell is nice, too, especially because you're aware that the hardness is fragile. One crack and the thing goes all to pieces. That's the surprise of an egg: One minute it is a perfect unity and the next it is a goddamn mess, spilling all over the place in various densities of goo. A primal thing, the egg is both the Truth and the Way — the Truth as it sits there in mute and singular glory, an infinite oneness; the Way in that the oneness gives way to the messiness and splatter of life. As Lenin is rumored to have once commented, in order to make an omelet, you've got to crack a few eggs. He was talking about murdering people, but you get the point. In order to use an egg you've got to get your hands dirty, you've got to spoil the pure simplicity of the original package. (The boiled egg does present a possible compromise, practical and metaphysical but we shall set that problem aside for the moment. Anyway, Kippenberger had no interest in boiled eggs.)
Eggman II, currently on view at the Skarstedt Gallery, reintroduces works by Martin Kippenberger that were originally shown in Der Eiermann und seine Ausleger (The Eggman and his Outriggers), the final exhibition of the aritst's work before his untimely death in 1997 at the age of 44. Consisting of nine paintings, a series of drawings on hotel stationery, and a sculpture, the works focus on the egg, a theme Kippenberger often revisited throughout his career.
"Always recycling imagery, the egg is the banal comedic device in Kippenberger's images," (from the show's press release). By playfully incorporating an egg into these works, Kippenberger made "indirect references to rebirth, reproduction, and the ideal of the circle." Whether showing a woman posing proudly with a giant golden egg, an embryonic dinosaur inside an egg, or the artist himself morphing into a bloated, grotesque Eggman, Kippenberger infused humor into his studies of the mundane egg form. As the artist stated: "In painting you must look what fallen fruit is left that you can paint. The egg has missed out there, Warhol already had the banana. You take a form for yourself it's always about angular, square, this and that format, about the golden mean. The egg is white and insipd, how can a colorful picture come from that?" That last bit must have been a rhetorical question.
The Happy End of Franz Kafka's "Amerika", 1994
"Every picture I see belongs to me the instant I understand it," Kippenberger once said and his art, in its rudimentary form seeks to challenge notions of authorship and originality. In the series "Dear Painter, Paint for Me" (1981), the artist hired the sign painter, Mr. Werner, who is credited for actually painting the works of art. This series, depicts Kippenberger in a performance; here the artist as actor, as impersonator, as (once again) humorist shines through. The recurring motif of a deluded fried egg finds its way into many of his works. Always "sunny-side-up," the egg acts as Kippenberger's alter ego-- supposedly he used the egg only because, "Warhol already had the banana."