Rosemarie Trockel is a German artist, who is known for cross-pollinations between weaving and painting. She emerged in the early 1980s as a principal figure in the German art scene, a member of the generation that followed in the footsteps of male artists Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, and Georg Baselitz. Her work departed from the masculine painting tradition that preceded her. Her art, influenced by a feminist sensibility, included “knitted paintings,” sculpture, video art, fiber art, and works on paper.
Trockel studied until 1978 in Cologne at the Werkkunstschule, which was then heavily influenced by the socialist, reformist artist Joseph Beuys. Trockel chose to not continue making art for the reformation of society. Instead she chose to use themes that dealt with the female role in society. She focused on female-oriented trademarks and symbols as social signifiers.
Trockel took a stand in the 1980s against the art of the postmodern era, which was heavily dominated by men. “In the ’70s there were a lot of questionable women’s exhibitions, mostly on the theme of house and home. I tried to take wool, which was viewed as a woman’s material, out of this context and to rework it in a neutral process of production.” So she recast the postmodernist vocabulary with a feminist twist with her “knitted paintings,” made by stretching wool across a canvas in monochrome or patterned abstractions.
She used assemblage, fabric, and knitting to make art totally different from the machismo of the male-dominated art world of Cologne. Her art challenged the classic notion of what a painting is and also focused attention on feminism, female sexuality, and the role of women in society.
Her knitted works are industrially produced textiles that bore references to utopian views of art’s relationship to life and to the history of feminism. The German Swastika and the Soviet hammer and sickle are now knitted symbols, that relate to the history of oppression and to the unavailability of tools for any ideological discourse for women, who were the ones constantly knitting.
Her computer-knitted paintings reproduced imagery of the Swastika, the hammer and sickle, and even the Playboy bunny. The use of repetitive patterning with such culturally charged texts and symbols on machine-made wool pictures can be viewed as a parody of the design work made by utopian Russian avant-garde artists. By merging craft, art, and machine-made objects, Trockel mocked gendered stereotypes that categorized handicrafts as feminine and industrial production as masculine.
Her 1993 “Parade” is a video which shows glowing white silkworms laid against a deep-blue background. The worms seem to be performing a dance to the music of Kurt Hoffman. In this piece patterning, associated with textiles, merges with a kaleidoscopic dance routine.
A Professor at Kunstakademie Dusseldorf, Trockel won the Wolf Prize in Arts in 2011. She has exhibited widely in the United States and Europe. She has had solo shows in Rome, Frankfurt, and the Dia Foundation in New York. She has shown her work in group exhibitions in several international biennials and in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Recently she had an installation of wool paintings and sculptural works from 2012-2015 at Los Angeles’s Spruth Magers Gallery. One of her pieces is in the permanent collection of the UCLA Hammer Museum.