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Photography by Stephen White

Subversive Stitching: Rosemarie Trockel at Sprüth Magers, London

Rosemarie Trockel is an artist’s artist. The Cologne-based conceptual sculptor and teacher (at Art’s Academy, Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, since 1998) supports and mentors new artists in a way rarely seen in the contemporary art world. It is a reflection on both her and Monika Sprüth, her own mentor of sorts, at whose Cologne gallery Trockel exhibited her first solo show in 1983. Today, a selection of Trockel’s new wool pictures and wall sculptures are on display at London’s Sprüth Magers gallery.

The gallery, founded in 1998 by Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers, represents such prominent artists as Andreas Gursky and Donald Judd, as well as Sprüth’s original female set, including Barbara Kruger and Cindy Sherman. Sprüth’s intention, when starting out as a gallerist, was to bring female artists to the fore, to be known as “artists” as opposed to merely “women artists,” alongside the men who dominated the German art scene of the time. The Sprüth Magers Gallery holds strong to this original ideology, whilst now also harboring the talents of many outstanding male artists.

Photography by Stephen White

Trockel’s work, prominent in the 1980s, with key exhibitions in the United States including the Museum of Modern Art, is notable for her feminist stance and rejection of artistic hierarchies. She uses a varied selection of media in her work, referencing the feminine craft of knitting in her wool pictures, and injecting subtle humour into her sculpture.

The current exhibition in London, presents a small selection of Trockel’s latest sculptural pieces and knitted works, some of which were displayed at London’s Serpentine Gallery, earlier in the year.

Courtesy of Sprüth Magers Berlin London

Trockel’s knitting pictures are worth a visit to the Grafton Street gallery, alone. Pieces which don’t translate to the printed page or photographs, the knitting pictures are constructed from monochrome or colored yarns stretched tight across canvases and enclosed underneath Perspex cases.

From afar, they recall jaunty Bridget Riley Op Art, but up close, the delicate machine-knitted woolen works pucker and bend across canvases, separating in sections to create horizontal stripes which fray delicately at the edges, recalling the traditionally female trade of needlework and tapestry.

Photography by Stephen White

Pieces such as Pattern is a Teacher (2013) with candied, virtually graphic stripes are aesthetically pleasing and inoffensive and others, from 2011 series “I See Darkness,” including Horizons Lined Up 2 & 3, create a somber mood, appearing as soft television static beneath reflective Perspex in which viewers see their own reflections. The Perspex cases offset the soft-focus of the knitting pieces, and fit comfortably amongst the highly lacquered wooden floors and gleaming glass façade of the gallery.

Ceramic sculptures combined with Plexiglas and paintings with such witty titles as Day Release, are displayed in the gallery, a new addition to Trockel’s oeuvre but overshadowed by the yarn works. Perhaps a larger display of her work would allow for further insight into such pieces, but for a soupcon, Sprüth Magers is the place to go until October 5.

Courtesy of Sprüth Magers Berlin London

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