The two ceramic pictures located at this station correspond conspicuously with the location: the Badisches Staatstheater is located above ground, making it one of the Karlsruhe venues for the performing arts. With the two still lifes in XXL format, Markus Lüpertz also brings in the fine arts and thus deliberately directs the focus to the institution above. At the same time, the ceramics make it clear that Lüpertz sees himself as an artist who always creates works of art with a tradition that goes back centuries or even millennia: We know still lifes already from antiquity, they experienced their heyday in the Baroque era. They were never just for edification, even if the artists used them to show off their skills in differentiating the materiality of the various objects. Around 200 years after the invention of photography, however, Lüpertz can assume that works of art no longer have to reflect reality as faithfully as possible, but that if he brings in a set piece, such as the yellow-orange checkered background in the middle of the picture, the viewer can read it as a tablecloth.
We see a bull’s skull, an inverted steel helmet and a snail’s shell on both ceramics in front of a largely abstract background. They can all be interpreted as symbols for death and are thus a reminder of human transience.
Since mid-May, no horn protrude from the bull’s skull into the airspace of the subway any longer. DEKRA, the test center for safety in public spaces, criticized its wide reach and feared accidents as a result. It was therefore sawn off with the artist’s consent and can now additionally be read as a symbol of transience – as well in the fine arts.
The title “The Wall of Uruk”, which is mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh, can also be included in this interpretation. It still exists today, yet as a ruin, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its dimensions. So even a structure as great as the Wall of Uruk is finite.
Text & translation: © Chris Gerbing, 2023
For a first orientation, you will find here an overview of the 365-day-”Genesis” gallery, which can be reached by underground almost 24 hours a day.