Curated by Beatrix Ruf
Rosemarie Trockel turned the retrospective gaze and the aspiration for an overview inside out here, as works in wide-ranging media from each decade of her career stood close together in ethnographic-style vitrines. Past works were “surveyed,” to be sure, but arranged as they were in Wunderkammer-like constructions, they also looked back—indeed, confronting the viewer like a tribe, refusing historical linearity in their apparition-like assembly: a swollen head sculpture, Hydrocephalus / Wasserkopf II(1982), for example, sat before the sleek black ceramic finish of a thirsty outstretched leg, mockingly titled Geruchsskulptur 2 (Aroma Sculpture 2, 2006), which, in turn, jostled a nearby diminutive goblin-like creature, Kiss My Aura (2008), hunkered below the overflowing hang of an unruly knitted work, Untitled (1989). Archetypes of mother and father were absorbed in the angular looking-back of Trockel’s roundup, exposing the cultural codes and clichés that underscore our need for empathic identification while also giving heterogeneous form to her diffusion of gender, ego, and character. Filtered and atomized throughout the exhibition, the liquefaction of the mother is Trockel’s versioning of self. By literally and precisely marginalizing her own works, she refuses to be periodized and thereby completed, insisting instead upon boundary conditions that can be reconfigured and made cruel. From the ceramic sofa sculptures that blocked and also moved the mover from the opening gallery into the next room, to a room that featured new ceramic wall sculptures, followed by the large-scale “knitted painting” nearly monochromatic series that preceded the vitrine interventions, to the lockdown style of collages that ran the perimeter of a back room in the show, work from Trockel’s past decade of production insisted on a dialogical tacking between new work and returns from the past. The first of a series of retrospective inversions—followed by the exhibition Flagrant Delight at Wiels Contemporary Art Centre, (2012), with curator Dirk Snauwert, and A Cosmos at Reina Sofia, New Museum, and Serpentine Gallery, (2012-2013), with curator Lynne Cooke—it was here that Trockel first carried forward and asserted the conceptual mantle of late Marcel Broodthaers in her magisterial critique and inimitable toying with retrospective desires.
Published in The Exhibitionist, Issue 9 (March 2014)