Growing up during the post-war era in circumstances defined by extreme social and economic constraints, Sigmar Polke developed a critical attitude toward forms of authority, classification, and the transformation of routines into rules. His approach to art-making was experimental, provocative, and multi-layered. While still a student at the Düsseldorf Art Academy, Polke, along with Gerhard Richter and others, founded Capitalist Realism in 1963, as an ironic reference to the art of state socialism and a critical response to the Pop Art of the commodified Western world. By focusing on artistic production that focuses on everyday subjects and views the world of goods and consumption with ironic detachment, Polke intends to create art for the people on the street rather than for the cultured middle class.
“Kartoffelhaus” (Potato House) is a five-sided latticework cage made out of wood and fresh potatoes nailed to every joint of the lattice. Consumed as staple food in post-war Germany, potatoes are a recurring element in Polke’s practice. He was fascinated by their self-reproductive capacity for growth, sprouting over their entire surfaces and in all directions. Architecturally, the construction echoes a West German middle-class garden shed, whilst the pitched roof points to an American house with a white-picket fence. The structure is neither a uniform enclosure, nor an exposed cage since it is missing one wall. Polke introduced the potatoes as a humorous irregularity to this otherwise perfectly geometrical, house-shaped structure.
"What Time Is It?", exhibition view, Arter, 2019.