Magazine article Artforum International

Otto Freundlich: Michael Werner. (New York)

Magazine article Artforum International

Otto Freundlich: Michael Werner. (New York)

Article excerpt

It's hard to find stranger, more uncanny sculptures in early avant-garde art than Otto Freundlich's. That may be why he is omitted from such major compendiums of modem art as those by H. Harvard Arnason and Sam Hunter, and even from the purportedly comprehensive German Art in the 20th Century: Painting and Sculpture, 1905-1985, published by London's Royal Academy in 1985. Yet it was Freundlich's 1912 sculpture The New Man that graced the cover of the guide to the notorious "Degenerate 'Art"' exhibition in 1937. What an honor!

The New Man, destroyed by the Nazis (Freundlich himself died in a Polish concentration camp), was one of the most innovative sculptures of the period, certainly surpassing in its bulky abstractness and formal complexity Umberto Boccioni's Development of a Bottle in Space, 1912, and Raymond DuchampVillon's Horse, 1914. While these two sculptures tested the limits of representation from within its own terms, Freundlich's work functions more like a battering ram. He unequivocally crashes through the limits of representation--without losing the raw power of The New Man--in the three sculptures here: Ascension, 1929, Composition, 1933, and Sculpture Architecturale, 1935.

At first glance, what's most striking about these three bronze pieces is their heavily worked surfaces. They are overrun with what look like crude, careless, even random marks, but on closer examination--and one doesn't have to get too close, for the texture really jumps out--they form a kind of system. …

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