Thomas Schutte: Frith Street Gallery

Article excerpt

Modernism was pompous; long live modernism! This is among the contradictory critical sentiments running through Thomas Schutte's work since the early '80s. His art, which both undermines and continues artistic traditions of the early twentieth century, grows more complicated and fascinating as he becomes even more accomplished.

On the ground floor of the recently relocated Frith Street Gallery were five large female nudes in bronze, steel, and aluminum, set atop steel tables and surrounded by a related group of delicately colored prints and beautifully rendered Nolde-esque watercolors. As with his ceramic heads--one of which, Green Head, 2006, was also shown--Schutte's figure sculptures are at once recognizably influenced by artistic precursors and uniquely his own. They immediately suggest modernist greats from Maillol to Picasso and Moore--even Botero. Schutte's women succeed as stylized, "neo-modernist" sculptures while boldly denouncing the implicit sexism and even kitsch thereof. The vast, bulbous, shining ass and various amputations of Aluminium Woman No. 7, 2001, or the decapitated, legless Steel Woman No. 9, 2002, both portrayed in convincing modernist language, make us acutely aware of this kind of sculpture's recurring violence and deeply unflattering portrayal of women. Steel Woman No. 14, 2003, is an abstracted figure with flailing limbs--either outstretched arms or obscenely open legs--punctured by a circular hole and a very rude slit, disturbingly sexual and raw. And yet, executed in the most traditional of sculptural materials and beautifully installed in this elegant interior, the works drive home just how comfortably such overblown and sexist portrayals of women occupy the white cube. …

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