Swede Per Skarstedt founded the Skarstedt Gallery with the mission of unifying the likeness of two countries, two worlds. One of the best examples of this unification is in the dialogue between words, uniting disparate parts into a whole. The Skarstedt gallery has a group exhibition, a series of sculptures both boastful and meek, both pronounced and heavy, yet light and solemn. Sculpture: Muñoz, Schütte, Trockel, and Warren, examines figuration in European sculpture.
Focusing your direction more on the presence of the sculptures, enter the gallery for the sculpture exhibition. In the smaller of the two rooms, you are presented with two works: one by Muñoz and the other Trockel. Immediately your eye is attracted to Juan Muñoz’s One Laughing at the Other two-figure sculpture that elevates the eye above the viewer, up to the two open-mouthed laughing figures. The bronze-embalmed polyester resin and steel fixture is a fixture in Muñoz’s rich and long history. Having debuted the sculpture in 2000, Muñoz continued to show the piece adding small figures to the narrative along one figure’s shoulders or painting the shoe or shoes red. When looking up to the sculpture in its entirety, you become aware of your own smallness. Initially what draws you in is the laughter, the amicability of the piece and what it projects. Being under the percolating shadows cast from the steel-framed chairs of the bronze colored men, you wonder: are they laughing at us, with us, for us or against us” This sculpture takes a more grave tone when turning to Trockel’s small dog curled asleep. Upon the dogs head is a party hat, adding lightness to what could be much heavier, like the silence of the two men laughing above.
Rosemarie Trockel’s Dog is part of a larger collection Creature of Habit, debuted in 1990. Although most New Yorkers might know her best from her American debut at the New Museum in 2012, Trockel’s collections are often in independent circulation like that of the dog with the party hat and the Listless Deer in Skarstedt’s second, larger room in the gallery and show. Moving into the second room, the much larger of the others in the gallery, you perceive a confusing optimism. Already you can feel the tension between the two spheres: the quietness and stillness in the immovable, in the dormant steel figures donned playfully or seriously.
To the left and first of the flock is Rebecca Warren’s OO figure which is one of three that debuted in 2006. Warren chose, after sending the piece to casting, to keep some of the remnants from casting so that there are spots with dry wax from its original mold. The choice leaves the viewer stunned in how easily these small aspects can be overlooked yet with the information made all the more imperative. Her second and largest sculpture in the exhibition is Large Concretised Monument to the Twentieth Century, a heavy, immense linear bronze sculpture that is a replicate of a female figure. In fact, it is in ode to the female form and although it is a beauty to look at, there are many oversized, bulged, and bending imperfections that make the entirety of the piece perfect. It’s its first time indoors since the debut in 2007. Warren’s ode is an intriguing companion to the Listless Deer from Trockel that is place between the two of Warren’s.
Listless Deer creates a somber impression, encouraging the viewer to recall the first room and reinterpret our understandings of these figures before us thus far: voluptuous women figures, listless deer, a sleeping humanized party hat dog and two laughing men above.
Thomas Schütte’s massive cast steel sculpture Stahlfrau Nr. 4 evokes the precise contradictory play that has been the theme in the show: a light heaviness. Having originally debuted in 1999, the piece is part of a larger collection of figures similar in textural weightiness and silence, often displaying different parts of the world exposed to different elements. The woman in cast steel brings a smile to the viewer’s face. Yet the rust from years spent outdoors give a textural design, a wallpaper pattern made from nothing but mother nature lending its hand to a purity that is rarely witnessed in steel. However, the women is curled in a way not suggestive of happiness or lightness. Usually, a fetal position evokes emotions of sadness, refuge, or loneliness. But is the woman sleeping” Is she sad or alone, is she taking refuge” Or perhaps all the interpretations are wrong, and she is none of these.
The last sculpture installation, carried from Schütte’s Stahlfrau, is another Muñoz of two feminine figures. The two waist height female figures with rounded bottoms and elegant tops with detailed jackets are initially fun, playful, and conversational. However, their weight and detailing, their position in dialogue with the entire collection of sculptures curated in the Skarsdet space pack the punch of what is likely being said here. Our interpretations, our loud silence, our extravagant existence yet immobile position mock our movements and questions, mock our human existence and the trite shapes and personalities we give to figures and foes, to women and animals.
Yet the exhibit offers enough ambiguity to leave room for your own interpretation of the artists’ message. The European sculpture show at the Skarstedt Gallery runs until December 19, 2015.
Skarstedt Gallery, 550 West 21st Street, New York, NY, USA +1 212 994 5200
By Dani Kowalczyk
A recent, long time coming graduate of DePaul University, Dani has made New York City her new home by way of Europe. Frequenting the tracks of the usual tourist, she seeks both the obvious and the not so obvious for her day’s endeavors.