How to live with pop : contextualizing the early work of Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, and Konrad Lueg
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On October 11, 1963, artists Gerhard Richter and Konrad Lueg held the event “Leben mit Pop: Eine Demonstration für den kapitalistischen Realismus” (Living with Pop: A Demonstration for Capitalist Realism) at the Berges furniture store in Düsseldorf, Germany. Many scholars have treated this event as an image, useful only in outlining the trajectories of the later successful careers of Gerhard Richter, Konrad Lueg, and Sigmar Polke. Few have attempted to contextualize this event in its social, historical, and political settings or to consider its effects on and relationship to the audience at the event. In this thesis, I resituate “Living with Pop” in terms of its experiential effects and its socio-historical context and extend my investigation of “Living with Pop” to the contemporaneous paintings and drawings of Richter, Lueg, and Polke. I argue that their artworks, which parody and question domestic tropes of the postwar era, reveal the complexities and ambiguities underlying the notion of West Germany’ s Wirtschaftswunder, or “economic miracle.” I examine how Polke, Richter, and Lueg explored artistic and national identities, a postwar culture of consumerism, contemporary modes of communication, and theories of culture and aesthetics in the late 1950s and early 1960s. To investigate the relationships between artistic creation, artistic identity, and contemporary daily life, I use domestic design exhibitions, advertisements, the journal Magnum, and a few select texts on contemporary society and culture by Jürgen Habermas and Theodor W. Adorno as relevant sources.