During his long career, Thomas Schütte has always been regarded by critics as an eclectic artist: he effectively manages to use diverse media and styles, passing with nonchalance from installations to sculptures, as well as drawings and watercolours. The majority of these works are often concerned with themes regarding historical memory and the concept of monumentality, offering a sharp critique of the vacuity of power and his forms.
Currently, there are two exhibitions dedicated to the artist in London, one at the Serpentine Gallery and another one at Frith Street Gallery near Piccadilly. While the one at Serpentine offers a formidable volume of works on display, the exhibition New Works at Frith Street Gallery showcases a smaller number of pieces: four portrait busts, four sculptures and two series of watercolours paintings, all of them produced by the artist during this year. However, this small taste of Thomas Schütte's artistic rhetoric offers visitors a good occasion for engaging with the artist in a more intimate and personal way.
As viewers approach the exhibition at Frith Street Gallery, their attention is rapidly attracted by two gigantic sculptures named Krieger (Warriors, 2012). Apparently, the peculiar appearance of the statues was based on small sculptures with bottle caps for hats, which had been scanned and then scaled-up in laminated and stained wood. The contrast created between the size of the statues and their appearance is almost humoristic: on one hand, their impressive dimensions are intimidating, while on the other, their shapes recall those of small toy soldiers. The result is a clever juxtaposition of contrasting features which express an evident critique of the common representations of power.
The second room of the gallery is dedicated to Fratelli (Brothers, 2012): four large bronze portrait busts with heavily modelled faces and shoulders. Their square disposition allow the visitors to interact with the four sculptures, remarking at the same time an invisible bond between the severe portrait busts. The appearance of the statues recall classic Roman portrait busts, which have always represented a universal symbol of power and majesty in European culture. In this case, Thomas Schütte, by exaggerating the features and facial expressions of the sculptures, transforms the statues into grotesque caricatures. However, the portrait busts never become humoristic; instead the exaggerated humanity of the four faces convey a sense of uneasiness and monumentally at the same time: although contemporary, Schütte's statues appear as archaic and ageless human representations.
In the lower gallery are gathered two heads realized in glazed ceramic, one feminine and the other masculine, whose style recalls that of the other works; while on the walls are displayed a series of watercolour paintings: Blumen im Glas (2012) and Distel (2012). Schütte's paintings look like a long series of snapshots of the same image, but depicted each time with a different set of colours. Almost testing the limits of the medium, the artist explores how different tones and techniques can convey different moods and suggestions to the viewer's consciousness. While his sculptures are granitic and imposing, Schütte's watercolours appear delicate and spontaneous; and it appears the gallery decided purposefully to gather these works in separate spaces, in order to create a clear contrast between the two parts of the exhibition.
I found the experience of this exhibition to be engaging and to some extent intimate. It's not a big collection of works, but this is in a sense, a positive aspect. I would recommend this exhibition to those who are willing to engage with Thomas Schütte's works in a more relaxed and contained environment.
Frith Street Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of new drawings and sculptural works by Thomas Schütte. Schütte is one of the most important artists working today. In this exhibition the artist exploits transitions in scale and materials in works which range from the monumental to the intimate and concentrate on figuration.
The two central sculptures in the exhibition Krieger (2012) take the form of giants, one brandishing a stick. They are based on small sculptures with bottle caps for hats, these have been scanned and then scaled-up immensely in laminated and stained wood. Fratelli (2012) are four large bronze portrait busts, their heavily modeled faces and shoulders have an almost classical appearance.
In the lower gallery are two more heads this time in glazed ceramic, and surrounding these are a series of small watercolour paintings. Schütte often uses watercolour in his practice producing images which are diaristic in purpose. The paintings shown here are very delicate still life studies of flowers, they provide a startling contrast to the extremity of the sculptures shown on the ground floor.
Thomas Schütte’s recent solo exhibitions include presentations at theNMNM, Monaco (2012), Castello di Rivoli, Turin (2012), Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (2010) and Haus der Kunst, Munich (2009). Schütte has received numerous awards and prizes, including the Düsseldorf Prize in 2010 and the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 2005.
A solo exhibition of Thomas Schütte’s work can also be seen at the Serpentine Gallery, London from 25 September – 18 November 2012.
Frith Street Gallery17–18 Golden Square
London Greater London United Kingdom W1F 9JJ
Tuesday to Friday 10am—6pm | Saturday 11am—5pm or by appointment