Thomas Schütte is on view at Peter Freeman, Inc., New York
September 16 – November 6, 2021
For his sixth solo exhibition at Peter Freeman, Inc., Thomas Schütte (b. 1954) presents a selection of new sculpture and print works, as well as drawings that investigate figurative expressiveness, scale, and material. Schütte’s latest works are being shown here for the first time outside Europe.
One of the most acclaimed artists of his generation, Schütte’s real and invented forms, often distorted and unsettling, explore themes of cultural memory, existential struggle, and human striving for an impossible utopian ideal.
Although figurative, none of the works in the current exhibition are articulated in an especially representational way, lending them a mask-like countenance and anonymity. Nixe (2021), a bronze mermaid measuring almost 10 feet tall, is the show’s center piece. Markedly more optimistic than the earlier antihero, Vater Staat (2010), and various iterations of Mann im Matsch who populate Schütte’s world and rigidly stand guard over their surroundings, Nixe’s fanciful, upward reaching form hails from the same fantastic realm as his colossal steam breathing dragons. Monumental but landlocked, Nixe finds herself equally as stuck as Schütte’s men in mud and bound oppressors.
Schütte’s practice is non-linear. He explores and re-explores similar themes and imagery over time, leaving series behind only to work them anew later in order to fully investigate their scale, materiality and meaning. Nixe echoes around the gallery, her impassive face repeated on a massive ceramic head blown up from her already significant bronze proportions. For Old Friends Revisited (2021), Schütte photographed a series of eponymous FIMO modeled figures in extreme close-up. A principal example of how the artist’s two dimensional work and sculpture inform one another, the drastically enlarged and sharply lit prints are theatrical in effect and take on a mocking and carnivalesque appearance when paired with the related objects in the gallery space. As with Nixe, their exaggerated features and expressions are mirrored in the faces of nearby glazed ceramic busts. Schütte’s faces and figures take on an archetypal quality, becoming recognizable characters rather than specific likenesses.
The Frauenkopf (implodiert) exemplifies Schütte’s interest in making good mistakes and incorporating error into the artistic practice. He pushes his materials to their natural limits, turning a technical error into inspiration for an entire series, and embracing the potential meaning implied by such “failure.” Schütte approaches his work playfully, allowing metals to rust, glazes to drip, and ceramics to do all that they can – including collapse. Schütte’s otherworldly beings, candy-colored ceramics, and polymer clay modelled figurines suggest a highly intellectual descent into a childlike state and belie the artist’s characteristic skepticism and dark humor.
Thomas Schütte’s work is on view this fall at the Georg Kolbe Museum, Berlin. Schütte has recently had solo exhibitions at Krefeld Pavilion (2020), Hetjens – Deutsches Keramikmuseum, Düsseldorf (2020), Kunsthaus Bregenz, Germany (2019), and Monnaie de Paris, France (2019). His work has been the focus of three retrospectives held in Bonn (2010), Madrid (2010), and Munich (2009) and a major exhibition is scheduled to take place in the fall of 2024 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. His work is included in the permanent collections of major international museums including: The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Tate, London; Dallas Museum of Art; Art Institute of Chicago; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and Museum of Modern Art, New York. Thomas Schütte was born in 1954 in Oldenburg, Germany; he lives and works in Düsseldorf.
Peter Freeman, Inc
140 Grand Street
New York, New York 10013
Photos courtesy of the gallery