Thomas Schütte’s practice is broad ranging, but is particularly immersed in the legacies of minimalism and conceptualism, all while experimenting with shifting forms of figuration. The artist reassesses the figurative traditions of art in his sculptures and drawings, presenting emotionally charged observations of the human condition. His work brings together both romantic visions of the world as well as more dystopian possibilities.
At Golden Square the exhibition opens with a work from the artist’s seminal Frauen series. The piece is from a group of eighteen large bronze, steel and aluminium sculptures made between 1999 and 2009. Some of the reclining, crouching and standing figures call to mind classic female nudes, while others are so distorted that the female shape is barely recognizable. The figures, positioned on steel tables, are depictions of the human body in various physical and emotional states.
The two monumental ceramic works from the Große Doppelköpfe series take the form of Janus-like heads. These huge faces with their two-tone glazes are heavily worked in clay, their features brutal and gaze penetrating, suggesting a statuesque authority. Six wall-based works in the form of the German flag are made from thick slabs of clay. Each work is made of three pieces in coloured glaze variations of the flag’s red, black and yellow.
The basement gallery at Golden Square contains more heads, this time in glass, made at the Berengo Foundry on the Venetian Island of Murano. These intimate works use the different qualities of the material to create distinct characters. Also on show are six Glasgeister – scaled down versions of one of Schütte’s most acclaimed sculptural series. These ghosts or spirits strike dramatic poses with arms gesticulating or eccentrically pressed against the chest and one leg in front of the other to emphasise the forward motion of the body.
The watercolours from the series Deprinotes shown at Soho Square provide a complete contrast to the rest of the exhibition. These delicate images confront such themes as meeting, loss, sorrow, angst and love.
Thomas Schütte’s work can be seen at Skulptur Projekte Münster until 1 October 2017. Recent solo exhibitions include presentations at the Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2016), Clark Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts (2015) Castello di Rivoli, Turin (2012) & Serpentine Gallery, London (2012). Schütte has received numerous awards and prizes, including the Düsseldorf Prize in 2010 and the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 2005.