If you’re looking for a bracing optical buzz, I recommend Greene Naftali’s revival of Konrad Lueg (1939–1996), whose eye-popping compositions from the 1960s appropriate such everyday banalities as paper towel patterns, supermarket flyers and plastic cabinet lining. The results go beyond just a workout for the rods and cones.
As West Germany dealt with the legacy of Nazism, and the prospect of turning into a battlefield for superpowers, its citizens fled en masse toward consumerist comforts. Against this backdrop, Lueg and fellow artists Gerhard Richter and Sigmar Polke created Capitalist Realism. Their mini-movement is considered a send-up of Pop Art, and indeed, Lueg’s sly celebrations of domestic crap parried Warhol’s glamorous icons. More piquantly, CR framed its New York counterpart as a tool of American soft power.
Seventies détente cooled Cold War anxiety, and with it, Capitalist Realism. Richter and Polke embraced international stardom; Lueg took his mother’s maiden name and became one of Europe’s leading dealers. Still, this look back is welcome, not only because Lueg’s art of the throwaway presaged dumpster divers like Mike Kelley, but also because its vibrancy stands the test of time.—Howard Halle