In 1965 Polke stated (not without a dose of humor), “Believe it or not, I really see my surroundings as dots.” Polke’s view is reflected in one of his first forays into printmaking, Girlfriends I. Two young women appear within a field of black dots, confronting the viewer with defiant gazes and postures.
This print is part of a series of affordable art editions produced by Hannover’s Galerie h via offset lithography—an unusual choice for an art publisher, as offset printing was typically employed for commercial and advertising purposes. For his contribution, Polke invited the gallery’s founder, August Haseke, to choose an item from a drawer in the artist’s studio that was filled with photographs—many of them newspaper and magazine ads—that served as source images for his paintings. Polke typically used a slide projector or episcope to superimpose photographs onto large canvases, thereby enlarging and revealing the minute raster dots that created the image’s tonal gradations, which he then painted by hand. In this case, however, the source photograph for Girlfriends I—likely lifted from an ad for a film—was straightforwardly reproduced as a photolithograph, without any trace of intervention by the artist. While Polke’s paintings simulated the visual effects of mechanized offset printing, Girlfriends I remains true not only to the appearance of the original advertisement, but also to its commercial print process.
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)