Rosemarie Trockel is a German artist, who 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, 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 not to continue in making art for the reformation of society. Instead she chose to deal with themes that relate to the female role in society and to the use of 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, by recasting the postmodernist vocabulary with a feminist twist. 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.
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 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.
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 MoMA, New York. Recently she had an installation of wool paintings and sculptural works from 2012-2015 at Los Angeles’s Spruth Magers Gallery.