This painting portrays the artist sitting on a beat-up couch that has been placed on a street corner ready for trash pickup along with bags of garbage—a familiar sight in New York. Despite his gritty surroundings, Kippenberger assumes a debonair pose, looking into the distance seemingly deep in thought while smoking a cigarette. The work is based on a photograph taken in 1979 during his first trip to the United States from his native Germany. As the series title acknowledges, it was made by a professional poster artist whom Kippenberger had hired to transform personal snapshots into large-scale paintings. The twelve works that make up the series range from images of Kippenberger to pictures of objects from the artist’s life.
Collaboration of this sort prevailed throughout Kippenberger’s short career. He rarely worked alone, instead enlisting the help of friends and assistants to realize his vision. In so doing, he deepened his already unorthodox approach to art-making, dismissing the idea of the artist as both singular genius and sole author. When they were first exhibited, in 1981, the works in this series were credited to “Werner Kippenberger,” a pseudonym invented for the poster artist.
Publication excerpt from From MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019).