Art Institute of Chicago opens Katharina Fritsch show Sat 21
Katharina Fritsch's eerie sculpture Monk (1997–99) is one of my favorite artworks at the Art Institute of Chicago, so I was thrilled to learn that the German artist will have a solo show at the museum beginning Saturday 21. Fritsch gave me a preview of the outdoor installation (pictured) on Tuesday.
"I had fun doing some mad still-lifes," the artist tells me with a laugh. The pieces in "Katharina Fritsch" are closely linked to her previous work: Her signature figurative sculptures, which she began developing as a student in 1979, are known for their unusual colors, matte finishes and uncanny quality. (Her 1993 Rat King gives me the shivers. In 2013, she'll install an electric-blue Cock (rooster, people) on the Fourth Plinth in London's Trafalgar Square.) Fritsch's Catholic upbringing piqued her interest in religious images like this exhibition's Figure of a Saint (St. Michael) and Madonna Figure, which are based on found knickknacks.
"Normally, these things are very small and I sell them as multiples," Fritsch explains. "So I tried making still-life arrangements with the multiples." Art Institute curator James Rondeau, chair of the museum's department of contemporary art, asked her to create a show specifically for the Bluhm Family Terrace after he saw her 2009 retrospective at the Kunsthaus Zurich. Though the artist changed the colors that she has assigned Skull, Hand and other elements in the installation's "still-lifes" for years, she still intends the peculiar hues to create a sense of "psychic unease." The sculptures' flawless finishes contribute to their "industrial feel," she adds, but her artistic process combines new technologies such as 3-D printing with "very old-fashioned crafting and hand-work."
The artist hadn't visited the site until she began installing her show last week—she and Rondeau finalized the exhibition using a model in her Düsseldorf studio—but she seems happy with the dramatic results. "For me, the most important thing is that it’s really striking when you see [the sculptures]," she says. "So it’s immediately there as a kind of picture. I think they work very well here because the skyline is so gorgeous."