Here’s Catherine Hickey on Bloomberg discussing the artist’s career:
Born in 1941 in eastern Germany, Polke emigrated to the west in 1953. He settled in Dusseldorf, where he studied at the Art Academy. In 1963, he founded the “Capitalist Realism” painting movement with Gerhard Richter and Konrad Lueg. The three artists mocked both the realist style that was the official art of the Soviet Union and the consumer-driven pop art of the west. Polke moved to Cologne in 1978.
He experimented with a wide range of styles, subject matter and materials. In the 1970s, he concentrated on photography, returning to paint in the 1980s, when he produced abstract works created by chance through chemical reactions between paint and other products. In the last 20 years, he produced paintings focused on historical events and perceptions of them.
Jerry Saltz chimes in from New York Magazine:
In the early sixties, when American Pop Art was still new, Polke was already twisting it into coy, cynical shapes. He and his East German contemporary Gerhard Richter (almost ten years older) came up with a German variant of Pop they briefly called “Capitalist Realism.” Like Roy Lichtenstein, Polke hand-painted fields of dots, and he rendered them with blurs and smudges, evoking the skids and glitches in Warhol’s paintings. But instead of making slick and graphic pictures (as Lichtenstein did) or silk-screens of things Americans enjoyed (as Warhol did), Polke created abstract grids and wavering flows, and showed us things Americans feared, like Lee Harvey Oswald and particularly German things like wiener schnitzels. Painting was being reborn in Germany, a rebirth that is roaring to this day, where his influences are visible in artists as disparate as Albert Oehlen, Neo Rauch, Anselm Kiefer, Rosemarie Trockel, and the late Martin Kippenberger and Jorge Immendorff. Polke’s Pop imagery was broken up on the canvas, shot through with entropy. It looked like it had a mind of its own.
The Dazzler: Sigmar Polke, 1941-2010 (New York Magazine)