Rosemarie Trockel can be classified as a feminist artist, with some qualification. First of all, because rather than expressing any kind of militancy her work uses ironic and metaphorical elements to reflect on women and define their place in society today. She has said that ‘art about women’s art is just as tedious as the art of men about men’s art’, thus dissociating herself from the disapproving, violent and exclusive options of artists of the 1970s. She nonetheless creates work that is both critical and committed, but whose main weapon is irony, an attitude she has used since the beginning of her career to free herself from the burden of Joseph Beuys’ influence in Germany. In spite of that, she has taken from him a contempt for traditional languages and the desire to fuse art and life. Andy Warhol is another influence, particularly for his use of industrial and mass-production processes, which implied an attitude that devalued the unity of the work of art, rebelled against authority, and was, like Trockel’s output, ironic. In Untitled, Trockel presents us with two serial elements made by means of industrial processes, which she uses in various metaphorical and ironic ways, with an underlying critical intent. The work is made of printed wool. In 1984 Trockel presented her first knitted painting, a small piece with abstract motifs, and from 1986 she produced large works with logos taken from society and the political sphere. This type of work, exemplified by Untitled, is probably the most well-known in her output, perhaps because her qualified feminism is most evident in such works. First and foremost, the material is the key to understanding the work. Fabric and knitting are a material and activity traditionally associated with women, and therefore devalued and relegated to the status of craft or, at best, minor art. Trockel, however, ‘elevates’ them to the category of great art by showing them as works, as paintings. But she also brings off another twist: in this case the fabric is industrially manufactured, so she is usurping a place associated with masculinity. In this fabric, two motifs spread all across the picture; this is undoubtedly an ‘all-over’ motif, with which she ironically confronts the formalist and masculine myths of modern art. The repeated motifs are the pure wool sign, in red on ochre, and the Playboy bunny, in ochre on red. In fact this is a juxtaposition of two modes of consumption: the domestic and the sexual. When they fuse, the two images represent the two places women are relegated to—the home and the sex trade—and at the same time refer to the eternal mother-whore dilemma. In Untitled, Trockel juxtaposes crossed references to masculinity and femininity with various default modes for women, playing between the idealised and the mundane. That juxtaposition produces a clash of meanings which, through irony, critiques the exclusion and sectarianism that still operate in Western society.
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