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Palazzo Grassi, Venice is hosting until November 6 the first retrospective exhibition in Italy dedicated to Sigmar Polke. Curated by Elena Geuna and Guy Tosatto, the show spans the artist’s entire career from the 1960s to the 2000s, bringing together nearly ninety works from the Pinault Collection and numerous other public and private collections. A major artistic figure of the past fifty years, Polke introduced profound changes to the pictorial language of the XX century. His eternal wish to experiment spread to images – he challenged their hierarchy and questioned the way they are created – as well as to the medium – he turned the medium into an actual component of the composition – and colors – he tracked down their formal and aesthetic potentials. The exhibition opens with Axial Age (2005-2007), a monumental set of seven paintings (including one triptych) initially exhibited in the central pavilion at the 2007 Venice Biennale. Now presented for the first time in the atrium of Palazzo Grassi, the series evokes the original entanglement between visible and invisible, the discrepancies between thoughts and perception, while referring to Karl Jaspers’s Axial Age theory. Unfolding on the two floors of the museum, the show follows a reverse chronological order from the late 2000s to the 1960s. The path is lined with bodies of work such as Strahlen Sehen (2007), a set of five paintings about vision and its pitfalls, Hermes Trismegistos (1995), a masterly evocation in four parts of the founder of alchemy, Magische Quadrate (1992), seven nacreous variations about magic squares and planets, Laterna Magica (1988- 1992), composed of six panels painted on both sides like stained-glass windows, and Negativwerte (1982), three paintings in a dense and toxic purple.

Sigmar Polke
Palazzo Grassi, Venice
Through November 6

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