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Funny Business: Consumerism, Humor, and Critique in the ‘Grafik des Kapitalistischen Realismus’

The publication of the Grafik des Kapitalistischen Realismus (Graphic Art of Capitalist Realism) print portfolio by the René Block Gallery in 1968 marked a notable graphic debut of the Capitalist Realism art group in West Germany. Commissioned by Berlin dealer and curator René Block, six artists, then living in West Germany, and all contemporaries of one another, were each invited to contribute one screenprint each to the project. The work of Klaus Peter Brehmer, Karl Horst Hödicke, Konrad Lueg (Fischer), Sigmar Polke, Wolf Vostell and Gerhard Richter are featured in the portfolio, along with an offset lithograph, designed by Block himself, which serves as the frontispiece.

The primary concern of this thesis is both formal and critical. It is rooted in the understanding that Capitalist Realism is based upon a mosaic of influences and operated as a multi-dimensional artistic movement applying both inventive material modes of parody and appropriating key symbols of postwar West Germany and the promises of the Economic Miracle. Some specific considerations include the manner in which each artist manipulates the screenprint medium to connote parodies of mass-media imagery and modern life; an examination of the 1963 performance piece, "Living with Pop: A Demonstration for Capitalist Realism," organized by two of the portfolio’s contributors – Gerhard Richter and Konrad Lueg in Düsseldorf; and René Block’s 1971 publication of the catalogue raisonné Grafik des Kapitalistischen Realismus: Werkverzeichnisse bis 1971.
Relevant research areas: Western Europe, 20th Century, Screenprinting