On the radio. This is what I would have liked to have said:
What does the current exhibition at the Kunsthaus Zurich feature?
Well, we see a combination of mediums here. This is Katharina’s first solo retrospective in Zurich, and the museum spent more than 3 years preparing for this show. There are older works from the late 80s, and newer pieces, which have been installed not necessarily chronologically, but aesthetically. Viewers will find sculpture, installation, and large-scale prints that she calls Raumbilder.
Which themes does Katharina’s work explore?
Katharina seems to have always been interested in how signs or symbols deceive us – she takes the idea that things are not what they seem to be to extremes. Her large sculptures look like something we can identify in reality but they are devoid of the context that we regularly associate with those objects, and thus they are devoid of meaning, or demand our participation to imbed meaning. In her newer work, the Raumbilder, she also explores memory, but by taking all specificity away from the images, she alienates her self from those places, and thus makes the whole experience generic and distant.
What makes her work interesting or impressive?
Size does matter. I think that when confronted by some of the large-scale sculptures in the exhibition, it is impossible not to be impressed, if only by the sheer scale. But also the work is sometimes aesthetically striking – bright, matte colors against black and white backgrounds, or matte blacks against colorful backgrounds. The contrast in color is striking, with a minimalist quality.
How can we understand Katharina’s work without previous preparation?
Well, that’s tough to say. Maybe understand is not quite possible at all. Her work might be more experiential, meaning it forces you to question your expectations of what you want to experience in an exhibition, and what you expect from art. It makes you uncomfortable and makes you wonder what you’re looking at, what it stands for, and why it’s there. That’s exactly what Katharina is interested in – making you question objects and their meaning.
Which pieces stand out and why?
Well, for me the sculptures are by far the most interesting, and namely her famous Company at Table from 1988, featuring a 16 meter long table covered in a red and white checkered table-cloth, with 32 exact replicas of a man, sitting at the table, painted with black hair, white face, and black clothes, all matte. The color contrast and the sheer scale of this work are incredible, but also the ideas of reproduction so rampant in our culture today, and our anonymity are also evident and unsettling. Then there is Koch, a matte yellow sculpture of a cook, servile and silently bending forward to present guests with a plate of goods. He is positioned carefully in front of a black/white Raumbild of a scary-looking inn in the Black Forest. Again, the color contrast is impressive, but also the features of this man, and the technique the artist used to make the mold are interesting. She made a 3D scan of a photograph of this Cook, and then cast her mold from the scan. And the third very interesting piece is of a Black painted female saint in front of a purple and white Raumbild of a bush or leaves, interestingly called St. Katharina – did she choose the saint as a reference to herself? And if so, what does she mean? Many of her works deal with religious objects and here she started from an existing statue of the saint, and made a much larger mold for this life-size piece.
Unfortunately, this is what I ended up saying:
Katharina Fritsch on WorldRadio