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01  |   L I F E  I N  T H E  B I G  C I T Y
Collage, 1980
Cut-and-pasted printed paper, on foam-core mounting board
125 x 100 cm
Sammlung Deutscher Bundestag [ Collection of the German Bundestag ].


Immediately following the “Boehm project,“ I turned my back on figuration and began to wonder what might happen if I sought to produce non-representational, colored surfaces from the colors and shadings of the printed matter I was collecting from magazines. By the end of 1980, I had four such panels in the works, each of which dealt differently with the possibilities, and problems, of combining painterly color-field thinking with my more or less “cut-and-dried,” graphic collage technique: painting, as it were, with cut-and-pasted printed paper.

Of those earliest attempts, I deemed but two worth giving titles : the one, despite its being so lacking in structural rigor that I was never certain as to which side was up , I called I KNOW THOSE GLITTERING HOUSES and the other LIFE IN THE BIG CITY, which I include in this catalogue as belonging to my œuvre because it determined, or at least influenced, a good part of my work for years to come both aesthetically and technically.

When developing a piece, I more often than not find myself beginning with the title and seeing where that word or phrase may lead me; thus guided, I work out a concept that describes—or rather prescribes—a work’s appearance and then go about its execution. LIFE IN THE BIG CITY is no doubt the only work in this catalogue that received its name post festum, for the simple reason that it is the only one included here to have survived from a time when I hadn’t yet been quite sure of what I was doing—or why—as I started working on it.

I do, however, recall its title coming to me out of the blue, as I surveyed the piece in its finished state and recognized its qualities. The verticality and “urban” vibrancy of the whole—uneven rows of very dark grey (really almost black) paper rectangles that make up its surface, suggestive at once of crowded, asphalt streets, tall buildings, and the general, metropolitan hubbub of human and vehicular traffic in, say, Manhattan—must have  brought the words to mind, or at least allowed them to seem right and fitting once they were there.

In comparison to my later panels, in which narrow horizontal and vertical rows of paper snippets meet and form fine, parallel “welts” and thus describe various geometric patterns, this rare solitaire piece has a more open, a livelier, almost exuberant, surface. It is, quite simply, more about surface per se (and perhaps little else) than those later groups and series of panels are.

LIFE IN THE BIG CITY, 125 x 100 cm, collage, 1980.