The term “Capitalist Realism” was coined some fifty years ago by German artists Manfred Kuttner, Konrad Lueg, Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter when organizing an exhibition of their work in a vacated butcher’s shop in Düsseldorf. Later in 1963, the now legendary “happening” Living with Pop – A Demonstration for Capitalist Realism was staged at the furniture store Möbelhaus Berges.
Living with Pop. A Reproduction of Capitalist Realism is the first exhibition in the US to take an in-depth look at the phenomenon of Capitalist Realism, which for a short period was synonymous with a specific style of post-war West German art. The exhibition aims to articulate this term’s relevance to the social and cultural developments of the past fifty years, leading to its re-appearance in recent political and critical theory.
Living with Pop. A Reproduction of Capitalist Realism documents the actions by Kuttner, Lueg, Polke and Richter that took place between 1963 and 1966 under the auspices of Capitalist Realism, and concludes with an account of the term’s strategic use by gallerist René Block in the late 1960s in Berlin. Further, sections of this exhibition are dedicated to the influence of Fluxus in the Rhineland as an important precursor to Capitalist Realism.
The peripatetic exhibitions that characterized Capitalist Realism as a parodic movement adopted a scenography of furnishings and paintings that constituted a distinct pictorial world. Alongside documentary material, Living with Pop. A Reproduction of Capitalist Realism will also include a selection of over fifty photographic reproductions of works by Kuttner, Lueg, Polke and Richter – a gesture that echoes the artists’ own approach to production and their choice of imagery. The artists painted objects, products and people found in magazines and newspapers, and highlighted the nature of these source materials through the use of fragmented images and other media-based techniques. Mirroring American Pop Art they rejected abstract, metaphorical forms of expression, instead turning their attention to life’s trivialities; By depicting middle-class values, and the repressive mechanisms of Germany’s post-war era, the artists turned the spotlight onto the “Economic Miracle” with its questionable promise of a better way of life.
Living with Pop. A Reproduction of Capitalist Realism also includes contributions by the Düsseldorf/Los Angeles based artist Christopher Williams, professor at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. Williams’ work can be seen to continue the politicized, contextual address of image production synonymous with Capitalist Realism. For the exhibition at Artists Space Williams inserts a selection of films, providing a discursive framework for the historical presentation.
This exhibition is designed in collaboration with Kuehn Malvezzi, Berlin. It is accompanied by a comprehensive catalogue edited by Elodie Evers, Magdalena Holzhey and Gregor Jansen, and published by Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König. The publication includes texts by Darsie Alexander, Eckhart J. Gillen, Mark Godfrey, Walter Grasskamp, Susanne Küper, Susanne Rennert, Dietmar Rübel, Stephan Strsembski, Elodie Evers, Magdalena Holzhey and Gregor Jansen.