Rosemarie Trockel is a German artist whose work includes “knitted paintings,” sculpture, video art, and works on paper. Her work deals with themes that relate to the female role in society and to the use of trademarks and symbols as social signifiers.
Trockel studied in the Werkkunstschule in Cologne until 1978. She is a Professor at Kunstakademie Dusseldorf. She came into prominence in the 1980s with her “knitted paintings,” which she made by stretching wool across a canvas in monochrome or patterned abstractions.
Trockel took a stand in the 1980s against the art of the postmodern era, which was heavily dominated by men, by recasting the postmodernist vocabulary with a feminist twist. 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, begun in 1985, are industrially produced textiles that bear references to utopian views of art’s relationship to life and the history of feminism. The swastika, hammer, and sickle are now knitted symbols that not only relate to the history of the ideological and of oppression but also to the unavailability of tools for any ideological discourse for women, who were constantly and silently knitting.
Her use of repetitive patterning with culturally charged texts and symbols – such as a swastika or a Playboy bunny – 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 mocks gendered stereotypes that categorize handicrafts as feminine and industrial production as masculine.
In 2011, Trockel won the Wolf Prize in Arts. 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 MoMA, New York. Currently she is showing an installation of wool paintings and sculptural works from 2012-2015 at Los Angeles’s Spruth Magers Gallery.