Sigmar Polke

It seems that nothing was off-limits for the German artist Sigmar Polke (1941–2010), whose relentless experimentation with materials and forms yielded a prodigious output of eccentric, wildly varying works in all mediums. This selection of thirty paintings and one video, dating from the 1960s to 1980s, revolves loosely around the theme of travel. Faux naïf abstractions give way to mountainous landscapes, seascapes, and hallucinatory jaunts. Works incorporating acrylic and oil paints, patterned textiles, glitter-infused pigments, spray paint, resin, and lacquer showcase Polke’s remarkably unguarded fascination with tactility and surface. Even with a glitzy bronze fabric, representing the sea, stretched across the lower half of Mondlandschaft mit Schilf (Moonlit Landscape with Reeds), 1969, for example, the painting avoids tackiness. In fact, these childlike approaches suggest a wanderer happening upon a shimmering sea. Polke’s experimental and quasi-kitschy works here demand extended contemplation, and reward the attentive viewer with such subtle and moving surprises that the exhibition is a journey in itself. —Julia Wolkoff


Pictured: Sigmar Polke: Mondlandschaft mit Schlif (Moonlit Landscape with Reeds), 1969, dispersion on two different types of fabric, 59 by 49 inches. Courtesy David Zwirner, New York.