Jürgen Klauke: Works from the early 70s (extra: Her-Self: Sarah Baker, Kate Hawkins, Alex McQuilkin, Sze Lin Pang)
Jun 8 - Jul 22, 2006
Jürgen Klauke: Works from the early 70s
Transformer, 1973
Colour photograph
47 x 39 1/2 inches (120 x 100 cm)
Edition of 3 (+2 AP) (ed. AP 1/II)

Jürgen Klauke: Works from the early 70s

Ritter/Zamet is proud to present a select retrospective of early photographic works by the German master-photographer, Jürgen Klauke (b. 1943).

Across an exemplary career as an artist to date, Klauke has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam (1987); the Museum Ludwig, Cologne (1987); the Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden (1992); the Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf (1992); and the Kunst-und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bonn (travelled to the State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg and the Hamburger Kunsthalle) (2001/2002).  He participated in the acclaimed exhibition, “Arti Visive’ during the Venice Biennale in 1980; Documenta 6, in 1977 and Documenta 8, in 1987, as well as important group exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1986); the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (1995); The Goetz Collection (with Cindy Sherman) (1995), the Guggenheim Museum, New York (1997), and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1998).

After completing his studies in graphics at the Fachhochschule für Design und Kunst in Cologne in 1970, Jürgen Klauke embarked on what was to become a continuing mission to interrogate and disrupt the rigid constructs of identity and to utilize his own body as a site of shifting, performative personae. In the early 1970s, he played a pioneering role in shaping the so-called ‘Body Art’ movement within Continental Europe, very much in line with the incisive self-explorations taking place simultaneously in the US by artists such as Vito Acconci, Bruce Nauman and Andy Warhol.

For Klauke, "using oneself to show the world" was both the impetus behind and the creative objective of his artistic work. Through his early photographic series such as I + I (1970), Self-Performance (1972-73), Transformer (1973), Physiognomies (1972-73) and Masculin/Feminin (1974), he posed in a number of theatrical guises with masks and props in order to reveal his own identity/sexuality/gender in a constant state of flux. As stated by J. Fiona Ragheb: “In probing the mutable nature of identity, Klauke’s work refutes facile notions concerning photography’s ability to capture both the “truth” and a fixed identity—beliefs that were promulgated, in part, through German photographer August Sander’s early twentieth-century series of representative types based on social backgrounds and occupations.  In contrast, Klauke’s oeuvre suggests a tacit endorsement of more contemporary theorizations that gender is not an innate biological constraint, but instead a fictional construction that is “performed” and may be modified at will.” (J. Fiona Ragheb, Jürgen Klauke, Rrose is a Rrose is a Rrose: Gender Performance in Photography, Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1997 p. 210).

The show at Ritter/Zamet presents four seminal photographic series from this early period. This includes the complete 13-part sequence of Self-Performance (1972-73) portraying Klauke set against a white brick wall undergoing a radical transformation of sexual identities from strutting camp machismo to bashful, virgin bride.  Here for the first time Klauke incorporates his trademark S&M paraphernalia along with fabric genitalia appendages to engender an unwieldy, trans-dimensional sexuality that pre-figures the androgynous hybrid fantasies created by Matthew Barney some twenty years later. The transgressive potential of self-transformation was further accentuated in the series Transformer (1973) and Embracing (1973/74), where Klauke, dressed in figure-hugging red leather, swathed in fur and adorned with fabric phalluses, “portrays himself as a caricature of the visual embodiment of his longing for multiple forms and androgynous gender” (Jürgen Klauke, Interview with Peter Weibel, 1994).

Klauke also threw into doubt the time-held notion of self-portrait as self-revelation, allowing his “self’” to appear and disappear, often simultaneously. With the series, Constructed Figures (1974), for example, a bald-headed and blank-faced Klauke seems to belie any kind of self-signification in order to explore more formal concerns. By posing with two artificial legs held at various angles, he appears to extend the physical limits of the body and how it interacts with space.

Jürgen Klauke lives and works in Cologne, where he is a Professor of Photography at the Kunsthochschule für Medien.