Magazine article Art Monthly

Fake/Function Thomas Schutte: Early Work

Magazine article Art Monthly

Fake/Function Thomas Schutte: Early Work

Article excerpt

Fake/Function Thomas Schutte: Early Work Henry Moore Institute Leeds September 23 to January 6

While he was still a student at the Dusseldorf Academy, Thomas Schutte was invited to participate in the exhibition 'Westkunst', a highly ambitious survey of western art since 1939 curated by Kasper Konig and presented in the Cologne trade fair halls in 1981. Julian Heynen relates that Schutte proposed the construction of a large stepped ramp with a viewing platform that would tower over its surroundings, like a great white ship. This would have been not so much a work in itself as a pragmatic intervention, offering a vantage point that would reveal the staging of the exhibition, and perhaps also making an ironic comment on the panoptic vision of the 'Westkunst' project.

This project was not realised and instead Schutte presented at 'Westkunst' three models, each on a tabletop base, the first of which, Ship, 1980-81, took the form of a stepped ramp enclosed by a curved wall like a ship's prow. This was Schutte's first free-standing sculpture.

At the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds Ship is presented as an end point among a group of early works made during Schutte's student years and it is possible to feel again the radical departure it seemed to represent from the works he had been making in the previous decade. The exhibition looks back to work that is more closely related to Minimal and Conceptual Art of the 70s--lightweight, variable in dimensions, always related directly to its surroundings. It reprises the ways in which Schutte's work moved between painting and sculpture, the ways in which he played with decorative devices and illusion. It also offers fascinating opportunities to discern recurring themes and preoccupations that may link this early work with current developments.


The institute's galleries are perfectly scaled to stage this exhibitio, and one is immediately conscious of the way in which the spaces frame the work and are transformed by it. With Penelope Curtis as curator, Schutte himself installed the exhibition and his hand is discernible in every detail. In the first gallery one encounters the resplendent Store, 1978, comprising 50 sets of three varnished boards, of different sizes and in varying hues. Each board has holes in it for hanging, but 49 of these sets are placed on the floor, in overlapping stacks against the wall. …

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