Katharina Fristch is a German sculptor who produces bold, deeply psychological works of fairly quotidian subject matter, such as animals and people. They obscure and muddle the lines between reality, the surreal and the fantastic, by drawing on folk stories, art history and personal experience. Their appeal lies in the uncertainty created when these two worlds are meshed together.
Her rendering of familiar imagery into ambiguous and perplexing symbols asks the viewer to call into question their conceptions of previously understood representation. Utilising humour, particularly in the form of wordplay and double entendres, and social commentary, Fritsch’s works are intended to be both captivating and unnerving; she wants the audience to reconsider their own definition of reality, to reflect on the feelings and associations revealed by viewing these commonplace objects in a new context.
Fritsch achieves this by transforming her subject into a dreamlike, uncanny replication by manipulating colour and material, one that is at once recognisable and wholly uncertain. Figures, animals and objects such as skulls, shells, and statuettes are starkly stripped back, leaving only their highly detailed formal features. These are treated with a single, somewhat jarring, monochromatic matte finish, and arranged in a manner that is too perfectly symmetrical and geometric to exist comfortably in nature. This is rather confronting as the material nature of Fritsch’s sculptures recalls some vivid dream or memory; everything seen is known, yet lacking in precise identity. Fritsch attempts to give our imagination a sturdy platform to build on and to make our fears, myths and deeply ingrained anxieties a more tangible and confronting reality.
Fritsch’s process of acquiring the equivocal characteristics that surround her artworks involves laboriously sketching and crafting her models, and working with industrial technology to bring about the near perfect application of materials. This methodical, painstaking practice is what produces the characteristic psychologically challenging effect that her works have.
After studying history and art history at the University of Münster, Fritsch continued studies at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, graduating in 1984. Her solo exhibitions include shows at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California, 1996; Tate Modern, London, 2001; K21, Düsseldorf, 2002; White Cube, London, 2006; Kunsthaus Zurich, 2009; and the Art Institute of Chicago, 2012. Fritsch has also taken part in major group exhibitions including the Lyon Biennale, 2003; Color Chart: Reinventing Color, 1950 to Today, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2008; ILLUMinations, 54th Venice Biennale, 2011; and Out of the Ordinary, Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C. She also represented Germany at the 48th Venice Biennale and has her works in the permanent collections of notable museums such as the MOMA, New York, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Museum Brandhorst, Munich.
Katherina Fritsch resides and works in Düsseldorf, Germany.
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