Image courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery, 2008

Last Saturday (yes, delayed post) I went to Chelsea for openings at Andrew Kreps and Matthew Marks gallery, respectively. Andrew Kreps is featuring a solo exhibition by minimalist artist Martin Barre’while the latter is featuring artist Katharina Fritsch. I hadn’t previously heard of either, but felt like looking at art and these were the only two visible openings in Chelsea that particular evening. Martin Barre’s extremely minimal collage assemblages were, while intriguing, a bit over my head in the realm of conceptuality. Although I did enjoy his reductive paintings/drawings with black spray paint on white canvas. Crossing the street, and looking in the window, I was a bit disappointed by the images at Matthew Marks, so you can imagine my surprise upon entering the space and feeling pulled into the large color tinted photographs. The photographs, obviously altered in color, are act as very large “wallpaper” and are often backdrops to other objects. Freestanding sculpture and a table with checkerboard tablecloth and over sized kidney beans are in the foreground while the photographs, landscape/environmental images create a color blocked background.

At a first walk-through, I felt pulled into the monochromatic tones. Yellow, fuchsia, turquoise, and emerald tinted worlds, appeared to be either appropriated from magazines of the past, or possibly the artists own vintage family photos? I decided to walk through again, next time looking at the facial detail of the sculpture. Not idealized, the features appeared to be a “real” person and I started to wonder about the individual who was being featured as well as the artist herself.

I approached a gallery assistant to inquire about the questions and possibilities that were emerging in my mind. Yes, the images are appropriated, and when assembled are a nostalgic recollection of the artists’ childhood in Germany. An overall memory that we as viewers can only assume may be true. I picked up the catalogue and found that some of my thoughts and questions had been asked before. I felt revalidated and delighted to see that some of the reading I did last semester, mentioning the “Uncanny” brought to the surface in popular films like “Psycho” by Alfred Hitchcock, and the musings of Sigmund Freud, is also a launching point in Katharina’s work.

From the Tate Museum website:

The attention that Fritsch pays to the surfaces of the sculptures, and to their color, scale, and the space in which they are presented creates a strange tension between the familiar and the uncanny….

Her sculptures open up dark areas of our collective consciousness and confront deep-seated anxieties, although this is often tempered by humor. Their iconography is drawn from many different sources, including Christianity, art history and folklore, without being reducible to a single source or meaning.

In her working process, Fritsch combines the techniques of traditional sculpture with those of industrial production. She uses models to create moulds, from which the final sculptures are cast in materials such as plaster, polyester and aluminium.

Many are made as editions, meaning that multiple casts are taken from one mold. Full of allusions to nightmares, spectres and symbolic figures, Fritsch’s work gives substance and weight to the fleeting products of our imagination.