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david ebony's new york top ten

martin kippenberger
at nolan/eckman

May 3-June 31, 1997

Martin Kippenberger
Installation view at Nolan/Eckman, NY.

   Planned before the artist's death, this exhibition is an unintentional memorial tribute to German conceptual artist Martin Kippenberger, who recently died in Vienna. On view are some 40 recent works ranging from paintings, drawings and photos to wall sculptures and altered floor lamps. The show offers a powerful dose of the artist's wacky esthetic.

It was Picasso's goal not to have a style, but Kippenberger seems to have achieved it. There is almost nothing to tie the works in this show together except for the artist's poignant humor which shines through in every piece. A number of works are centered on the theme of smoking. For example, a group of three tall lamp pole sculptures are made of resin embedded with objects pertaining to the bad habit. One contains dozens of colorful plastic lighters, another, cigarette butts, and the third, matches. Three wooden heads in a work titled Always on the Wall dangle on chains suspended from wall mounts. Metal tubes are inserted into each head's mouth and nose, like a breathing apparatus for someone suffering from lung disease.

Some works are autobiographical, such as the untitled work consisting of three large resin eggs filled with objects the artist accumulated from hotels where he has stayed. This work and each of the others on view, has a kind of disarming wit and charm -- but with an edge.

DAVID EBONY is a contributing editor to Art in America. He is working on a book about the life and work of Graham Sutherland.