“To see things as they are”: that is the title of one of the largest paintings by Sigmar Polke, the prolific trickster of postwar German art, hanging now in the central gallery of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Did he mean it? The text that runs through its centre – Die Dinge sehen wie sie sind, it reads – is drawn from a newspaper clipping, but the letters are printed in mirror image, and they get hazy and wobbly thanks to the painting‘s unconventional material. Instead of a canvas, it’s done on a bisected surface that’s half translucent resin, half tacky wallpaper. Above the text is a cluster of hastily sketched boxes done in one-point perspective: the singular deception of western art, which imitates three-dimensional life in two-dimensional space. And beneath the resin you can see the painting’s wooden