Tag Archive | Statuary

Modern Art Monday Presents: Figurengruppe (Group of Figures) By Katharina Fritsch

Group of Figures
All Photos By Gail

From Moma Dot Org:

A brilliant yellow Madonna, a set of skeleton feet, a grey giant leaning obdurately on his club, a green and boyish-looking St. Michael slaying the dragon, a pitch-black snake — these and other figures make up a curious cast of characters currently on view in MoMA’s Sculpture Garden. Figurengruppe (Group of Figures) is a tightly arranged ensemble of nine sculptures by the German contemporary artist Katharina Fritsch, first conceived in 2006–08 in painted polyester and recast in 2010–11 in durable lacquered copper and bronze for outdoor display.

Group of Figures

Katharina Fritsch is an artist best known for fastidiously crafted figures, animals, and everyday objects placed in unexpected arrangements and juxtapositions, uncovering new, sometimes unsettling meanings about our past and present histories. Often painted in striking colors, her work invariably commands attention — and MoMA’s Figurengruppe does not fall short of that. The figures’ polished, silky surfaces, beaming colors, and choreographed arrangement are spellbinding and puzzling, their mute stance and inscrutable veneer tempting us to search for some larger narrative.

There are hints and clues about what inspired certain characters, but ultimately any fixed meaning remains stubbornly elusive. The artist has explained, for example, that the Madonna is based on cheap souvenir figurines sold near church pilgrimage sites in Germany and France, albeit without the lemony dress. Religious symbolism is present, but the dazzling color unhinges the worshipped item from a prescribed context, de-familiarizing her into an object that can bear other potential storylines or associations. (Fritsch also produced the Madonna as a small-scale multiple, creating a more widely available, high-art doppelganger of the commercial souvenir.)

Group of Figures Rear

The skeleton feet go back to a childhood dream in which the artist, as a four-year-old, fled a burning house only to encounter a pair of skeleton feet. These in turn relate to a shoe-fitting practice offered in German shoe stores through the 1960s whereby an image of one’s foot bones would be created using an x-ray contraption. Anecdotal memory plays a part here, but seeing the rigorously crafted set of bones can just as easily bring to mind some disembodied creature out of Edward Gorey’s morbid tales or a commonly encountered object from an archeologist’s lab.

The female torso takes its cue from a 1926 Expressionist sculpture by a man named Ernst Conze that used to stand in the garden of Fritsch’s childhood home in Langenberg, Germany; now painted white and reduced in form, it has been lifted from its past into a present-day setting. In fact, mid-century German parks and public gardens have been a recurring theme in Fritsch’s practice, in some works even serving as visual backdrops. In a way this tactic is preserved in MoMA’s current display—the newly re-installed Sculpture Garden makes for a fitting tableau, situating Figurengruppe within a diverse congregation of cohorts that include Auguste Rodin’s St. John the Baptist Preaching (1878–80), Aristide Maillol’s contemplative female Mediterranean (1902–05), Max Ernst’s King Playing the Queen (1944), and Tom Otterness’s sleeping Head (1988–89), among others.

Taking a look at some of the artist’s source material can offer access points into the group’s oblique presence. What I find most captivating, though, is the friction between the sculptures’ smooth, almost generic look and the rich and quasi-narrative worlds that unfold beneath their surfaces. It’s a space where our intellect or attempt to rely on a logical framework loses its tight grip, conjuring instead images from the realms of history, memory, myths, and fairytales. These aren’t necessarily cheerful, but they do make us ask questions — maybe even reveal some of our own skeletons in the closet.

— Posted by Eleonore Hugendubel, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Painting of Sculpture

Group of Figures in the Snow

And this is what the Group looks like covered with snow! (Photographed 1/24/16, the day after Superstorm Jonas!)

Must See Art: Jeff Koons Retrospective at The Whitney Museum

Jeff Koons Retrospective Signage
Jeff Koons Retrospective Signage Depicting Michael Jackson and Bubbles Sculpture from the Banality Series (All Photos By Gail)

It is no secret that Jeff Koons is one of my most-loved artists. A lot of haters take issue with the fact that Koons is so rich and successful, like that is a bad, thing. I say, if a billionaire wants to pay $58 million dollars for one of his Balloon Dog sculptures, good for him. Good for everybody! If I had $58 Million to blow on some rad artwork, I would do the same thing. Jeff Koons!

Jeff Koons is currently the subject of a retrospective at The Whitney Museum, surveying the full scope of his career, and it is a must see show. Comprised of almost 150 objects dating from 1978 to the present, this exhibition is the most comprehensive ever devoted to Koons’ Artwork, his first major museum presentation in New York, and the first to fill nearly the entire Marcel Breuer-designed Whitney building with a single artist’s work. The Koons Retrospective will also be the final exhibition to take place there before the Whitney opens its new building in the Meatpacking District in 2015 — but what a way to go!

Mail Box with Gazing Ball
Gazing Ball Series (2013)

The Koons Retrospective fills four floors of the building including the lobby, plus the lower level (adjacent to the restaurant) and the small outdoor “garden.” The work is organized chronologically with his newest work, which includes the Gazing Ball series that debuted at the David Zwirner Gallery last year, in a lobby adjacent gallery. Geoffrey and I started on the 4th floor and worked our way down.

Non-flash photography is allowed (thank god) and I took about 100 photos. Here are some highlights from the show!

Inflatable Flowers
Inflatable Flowers

The Inflatables Series (1978–79) features works that look like weightless, air-filled plastic flowers, though the works are made of stainless Steel.

Light Mounted Toaster
Toaster Mounted on Lit Base

Pre-New (1979–80) includes a series of small, counter top kitchen appliances mounted on deco-style lit bases.

Red Telephone
Red Telephone, Pre-New Series

I never thought I would live in an era where some people will neither know how the above object is used, nor understand the significance of its red color.

Vacuum Cleaners
Vacuum Cleaners, New Series

The News Series (1980–87) features billboard-sized product adverts as well as a large collection of sculptures comprised of early model vacuum cleaners encased in vitrines lit by fluorescent tubing.These works reminded me favorably of  old The Carousel of Progress attraction at Disneyland.

Vacuum Cleaner Gallery View
New Series Gallery View

Basketballs in a Tank
Three Basketballs in a Tank, Equilibrium Series (1983–93)

Frangelico Ad
Frangelico Ad, Luxury and Degradation Series (1986)

Baccarat Crystal Cocktail Set
Baccarat Crystal Cocktail Service Set, Luxury and Degradation Series

Mermaid Sculpture
Mermaid, Statuary Series (1986)

Bob Hope Statue
Bob Hope, Statuary Series

Banality Series Gallery
Banality Series (1988) Installation View

Surprised Bather
Surprised Bather, Banality Series

Gilded Mirror
Gilt Mirror, Banality Series

Made in Heaven Signage
Made in Heaven Series (1989–91)

Between 1989 and 1991, Koons and his then wife, Italian Porn star and Politician Cicciolina, posed for a series of sexually explicit artworks that became the Made in Heaven Series and Coffee Table Book. While Koons and Cicciolina are unbelievably hot and fun to look at, some of these photos show lots of Peen and Vajayjay, so you are going to want to keep any kids out of the galleries that are labeled “Sexually Explicit Material/Not for Children” or something similar.

Made in Heaven
Made In Heaven Series

Koons Bust with Crystals
Koons Bust with Crystals, Made in Heaven Series

Made in Heaven Amethyst Sculpture
Made In Heaven Series Amethyst Sculpture

Pink Cake
Pink Cake, Celebration Series (1994 Onward)

The Celebration Series gallery is probably my favorite in the entire exhibit.

Purple Heart
Purple Heart, Celebration Series

Giant Pile of Play Doh
Play-Doh with Balloon Dog in the Background, Celebration Series

Pink Button
Pink Button with Random Gallery Visitor, Included for Scale, Celebration Series

Purple Giraffe Mirror
Purple Giraffe Silhouette Mirror, Easyfun Series (1999–2000)

Mirror Reflected in a Mirror
Easyfun Series

Betty Page and Dolphin
Easyfun-Ethereal Series (2000–02)

Lunch Meat Faces with Mustache
Easyfun-Ethereal Series

Beach Chairs and Seals
Seal Walrus (Chairs) Sculpture (Foreground), Elvis (Background), Popeye Series (2002 Onward)

Inflatable Lobster
Lobster, Popeye Series

Hulk Organ
Hulk (Organ), Hulk Elvis Series (2004–14)

Yellow Mirrored Sculpture
Pluto and Proserpina, Antiquity Series (2013 Onward)

Balloon Venus
Balloon Venus (Orange), Antiquity Series

I know there are a ton of photos in this post, but consider that they represent only one tenth of what’s in the exhibit and you know you gotta go check this out! I’ll be going back at least once more. Helpful Hint to Avoid Crowds: Try to get to The Whitney by 12 Noon or earlier on a weekend. Although crowds are unpredictable, an early arrival made the difference between waiting on line just inside the lobby when we arrived versus a line that went outside and around the block by the time we left!

Jeff Koons: A Retrospective Will be on Exhibit Through October 19th, 2014, at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Located at 945 Madison Avenue (at 75th Street) in NYC. The exhibition then travels to the Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, Paris (November 26, 2014–April 27, 2015) and to the Guggenheim Bilbao (June 5–September 27, 2015).