A 10-foot cast-iron mermaid; a series of FIMO clay, flannel-wrapped old men encased in glass domes; an ink-on-watercolor paper drawing of a dog with his head reared back toward his tail, ears alert. In his sixth solo show at Peter Freeman, Inc., German contemporary artist Thomas Schütte presents a selection of playful and poignant new sculptures, prints, and drawings.
Schütte’s sculptures, though a kind of portraiture, delight in the unexpected or unconventional. The chopsticks stuck through the bun of the ceramic-and-steel bust Implodierte (2020) are by far the sturdiest thing about it: its neck swoons like putty and an equally yielding head droops, threatening to slip off the plinth. A series of largely crotchety-looking old men with ravined faces, entitled “Old Friends Revisited,” glower when not actively grotesque, their ceramic, clay, and photographic surfaces cracking in an effect not unlike aging.
Medium and material take pride of place. A prone head, sleeping atop a pedestal and made of a substance that recalls raw sugar, appears crisped and caramelized on one side of its face, but in fact is made of cast Murano glass. Dritte Schwester (2013), a woman’s head with eyes beatifically closed and wrinkled brows, evokes unsmoothed papier-mâché with the gridded texture of her bonnet, while the smaller Nixe (2021) is such a lurid turquoise it looks glazed or painted. Both are made of cast bronze. Große Frauenköpfe (2021), meanwhile, which looks like patinated bronze plated in nickel or aluminum, is actually glazed ceramic. Though Schütte’s sculptures are distinctly contemporary, they return us to the basest conception of what sculpture can be: an investigation of material, depiction, feeling. —Lisa Yin Zhang
Thomas Schütte, Implodierte, 2020. Glazed ceramic and steel on artist's steel base,
Sculpture: 12 1/8 x 20 1/2 x 22 1/2 inches. Overall: 69 3/8 x 20 1/2 x 23 5/8 inches.