Monnaie de Paris
Kunsthaus / Bregenz
 
<a class="switch" style="color:#FFF">Text</a><br> <b>Camille Morineau</b><br> <span style="display: none;"> Exhibitions and Collections Director </span>
 
Thomas
Schütte
 
Thomas Schütte (born in 1954 and living in Düsseldorf), a student of Gerhard Richter at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf, is considered today one of sculpture’s reinventors. His first retrospective exhibition in France, at the Monnaie de Paris, included four monumental works on loan from Pinault Collection; it then traveled to the Kunsthaus in Bregenz, with the additional loan of a set of unpublished watercolors from his “Blues Men” series.


<span class="alinea"></span>Asked, in an interview<sup>1</sup>, about the origin of his artistic vocation and his sources of inspiration, Thomas Schütte cites music several times: in his youth, he would have liked to be a musician (cinema also attracted him at first), before he was forced to acknowledge his lack of talent in that artform. Those who know him well know that he listens to the blues musicians with the most regularity, and for the longest time; for those few close friends, the subject of his latest watercolors, a series titled “Blues Men” (2018), presented for the first time in September 2019, was not entirely surprising. These engravings consist of portraits of twenty great bluesmen, from its origins in the late nineteenth century in the southern United States to today. The artist modestly points out, a little amused, that he was inspired by accessible photographs, and only those he liked. To my comment that the series only includes men, he replied, silently but effectively, three months later, when he showed me the four Blues Women he had just completed and added to his display in the annex of the Skulpturenhalle, singers whose expressive faces effectively complete this portrait gallery. <br/> <br/> <span class="alinea"></span>Watercolors—depicting sculptures, architectures, poetic variations, self-portraits, and family group portraits—has played an essential role in Schütte’s work from the outset. Each series is an artistic proposal in its own right, fully engaging with gesture, color, and content. Schütte leaves nothing to chance in these watercolors, in which his perfectionism is as crucial as it is in his three-dimensional work. The faces of the Blues Men, rapidly sketched in white on a dark background, are both evocative and ghostly. For some, Schütte used his fingers, some his entire palm; others were outlined in just a few strokes, a play of light and shadow under a hat, a piercing look, a smile. This great economy of means coincides with a great economy of time, as is often the case in Schütte’s work: this series was developed in just a few weeks, during which time Schütte was also working on the creation of monumental sculptural works (<i>Mann im Wind I, II, III</i>). His economy and restraint, these simple gestures of the hand and the brush, speak of their subject, a music with simple means; while the dark background color speaks of the melancholy that distinguishes this musical corpus. “But all the Blues musicians,” concludes the artist, in a quick comparison of his favorite musicians, “what they could do with limited means! I still love listening to them today.”<sup>2</sup> <br/> <br/> <span class="alinea"></span>The question of economy of means is central to Schütte’s work; they have been described as having a DIY aspect, and while his work does “play” with that notion, the opposite is true. Schütte uses time judiciously, in extremely concentrated gestures and following a long reflection, resulting in a perfectly controlled form—even when chance is part of the process. Sculptures in the “Mann im Wind” series were designed to be built on a large scale, but are based on miniature models. Schütte embraces a virtuosic work on scale, a true instrument and driving concept of his work. We know that his characters, both male or female, whether standing or lying down, originated as small sketches, often staged in architectures or scenographies. In this way, his work in the 1980s is consistent with the work he produces to this day. <br/> <br/> <span class="alinea"></span>Replaying, in a completely new way, the dialogue between large and small scales initiated by Giacometti in the middle of the twentieth century, Schütte brings the game to an end with the Mann im Wind series. To create these works, he melted small, ordinary figurines with fire, bringing out hazardous draperies, strange shortcuts. Initially only a few centimeters tall, barely taller than a finger’s phalanx, these men gradually grew to almost three meters in stature. From figurine to monument, from plastic to bronze, passing through polystyrene, gesture, patina, through an intense collaboration with his foundry accomplices: these three men now stand in an architecture, recreating by their presence and their exchange of glances a scene in which we are spectators, or a story that we must finish. Their feet are fused to the ground, like almost all male characters standing in Schütte’s work. But here, for the first time, the male faces are not grimacing, threatening, or conspiratorial; no sign of arrogance or ridiculous headgear as in <i>Vater Staat</i>, Schütte’s masterpiece of male anti-heroism. They are not puppets covered with cloth, nor masks, but people who are turned towards each other, or towards the sky. Their faces are smooth and barely formed, like the faces of teenagers or young adults: a completely new subject in the artist’s work. Here again, nothing was left to chance; the technique, left visible (the use of fire, then the change in scale), speaks of its subject. Instead of getting bogged down, these men seem to emerge from the earth, and from the bodily or textile coating that protected them from the adult world. They move forward, rise up, move out. Before our eyes, they grow, gradually occupying space with a mixture of hope, modesty, and strength. Schütte continues to surprise us. <br/> <br/> <div class="notes"> 1 — <i>Reality Production : Thomas Schütte</i>, interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist, Mousse n° 28 and 29 (April-May and Summer 2011), available at: <br/> <a href="http://moussemagazine.it/thomas-schutte-hans-ulrich-obrist-2011/">http://moussemagazine.it/thomas-schutte-hans-ulrich-obrist-2011/</a> <br/> 2 — Ibid. </div>
<i>Mann im Wind I, II, III</i>, 2018 <br/> [Man in the Wind] <br/> Patinated bronze <br/> 350 × 240 × 240 cm (each) <br/> Exhibition view at the Monnaie de Paris
<i>Vater Staat</i>, 2010 <br/> Patinated bronze <br/> 350 × 240 × 240 cm (each) <br/> Exhibition view <br/> at the Monnaie de Paris
<i>Blues Men</i>, 2018 <br/> Watercolor and ink <br/> on Arches paper <br/> 38,6 × 29,1 cm (each)
<i>Blues Men</i>, 2018 <br/> Watercolor and ink <br/> on Arches paper <br/> 38,6 × 29,1 cm (each)
<i>Blues Men</i>, 2018 <br/> Watercolor and ink <br/> on Arches paper <br/> 38,6 × 29,1 cm (each)
<i>Blues Men</i>, 2018 <br/> Watercolor and ink <br/> on Arches paper <br/> 38,6 × 29,1 cm (each)
<i>Blues Men</i>, 2018 <br/> Watercolor and ink <br/> on Arches paper <br/> 38,6 × 29,1 cm (each)
<i>Blues Men</i>, 2018 <br/> Watercolor and ink <br/> on Arches paper <br/> 38,6 × 29,1 cm (each)
<i>Blues Men</i>, 2018 <br/> Watercolor and ink <br/> on Arches paper <br/> 38,6 × 29,1 cm (each)
 

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