When, in 1987, as part of the Skulptur Projekte Münster, Katharina Fritsch exhibited her monochrome yellow Madonna Figure in the centre of Münster, positioning it between the Dominican church and one of the city’s temples of consumption, she broke several taboos in the staunchly Catholic “City of Peace”. The Madonna did not take an individualised form, but appeared as a standardised “type”, like a souvenir, with its life-size scale creating a monumental effect. The figure’s ambiguous staging, precisely positioned between religion and consumption, kitsch and art, and ultimately between piety and sanctimony, gave it an aura of its own and generated veneration and protest alike from passers-by.
Fritsch thinks in terms of images, making use of a broad repertoire of motifs from flora, fauna, history, daily life and a multifaceted world of objects. Her “sculptural” images are created by means of elaborate casts; in the manufacturing process she is more interested in their three-dimensionality than in the laws of sculpture itself. The unique quality of her sculptural images derives from the jarring staging of her works, achieved through serial positioning (Company at Table, 1988), monumentalisation (Rat King, 1993) or miniaturisation (Display Stand, 1979–1984) and through the interplay of human characteristics and abnormal compositions of bodies rendered in a typically monochrome colour scheme. The surface treatment, specifically the paint coatings of the artworks, play a central role in the manufacturing process: the matt quality of the monochrome surface cuts out any reflection of the immediate surroundings, thereby reinforcing the impression created by the pieces’ immaterial and surreal appearance.
Monk (1999), Doctor (1999) and Dealer (2001) make up a small group of three sombre characters who, like the Madonna figure, are stereotyped and grotesquely exaggerated. While outwardly they appear to be at ease, in their static composition they challenge the viewer. With their proud male demeanour they demonstrate prevailing power structures with a sense of ambiguity that calls them into question: The monochrome white doctor who promises a cure appears as a fateful messenger of death with skull and doctor’s coat; the black monochrome monk portends more sanctimoniousness than salvation; and whatever the red dealer is selling, it is surely nothing good.
In the exhibition:
Katharina Fritsch Doktor, 1997–99 Polyester and paint 177,8 × 58,42 × 43,18 cm Olbricht Collection
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