Katharina Fritsch

Kunsthaus Zürich
3 June-30 August 2009

Curated by Kunsthaus Zürich’s Bice Curiger, who is also editorial director of Tate Etc and editor-in-chief of Parkett, this retrospective of German artist Katharina Fritsch includes new work presented to the public for the first time. Fritsch, at 53 years old, has created a substantial body of work over three decades, in which she has carved out a unique space in contemporary sculpture and installation. Since her major retrospective at Tate Modern in 2001, the Essen-born artist has also been making large-scale silkscreen prints and blown-up “postcard” works. “There is a humorous tone in her newer work, even a taste for frivolity,” Ms Buriger told The Art Newspaper.

Fritsch was very closely involved with the presentation of the exhibition at Kunsthaus Zürich, which was three years in the planning, and she has designed a meticulously organised sequence of eight rooms for the 70m-long rectangular space. The first work to greet the visitor is Cook, 2008, a life-size yellow sculpture of a chef offering a plate of food, standing in front of a black-and-white image of a Black Forest inn. This work typifies the new strand in Fritsch’s practice, combining figurative sculptural works with large-scale wall-based imagery to create vivid, enigmatic tableaux.

One room of the exhibition has been styled as a kind of bedroom, with a number of new silkscreen works on the walls—such as Postcard (Ibiza), 2007, and Postcard (Surfer), 2008, showing male pin-ups—along with a large bed (French Bed, 2009), a bedside table and a refrigerator crafted as Judd-like minimalist sculptures. In another room the figures of a lady and a poodle composed of shells stand beneath 32 umbrellas suspended from the ceiling, and in another a huge orange octopus holding the tiny figure of a scuba diver in one of its tentacles, a large scull wearing a top hat, and a giant brain are surrounded by black-and-white silkscreens of enlarged illustrations from 19th-century magazines. Ms Curiger said that the idea is to create “spatial images”, where “the entire room becomes an image”. It is difficult to pin a meaning onto these surrealist constructions, but they create pleasing, and uncanny, visual experiences.

There is of course plenty of Fritsch’s playful back catalogue, including her iconic, animal-based works (Rat-King, 1991-93, Man and Mouse, 1991-92 and Elephant, 1987), as well as the monumental Company at Table, 1988, with 32 identical male figures seated at a 16m-long, geometrically patterned table.

This is the most extensive Fritsch exhibition to date, and the show will travel to the Deichtorhallen Hamburg from 6 November to 31 January 2010.

This article was published in The Art Newspaper, June 2009, p18. To view it in context, click on the PDF link below

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