Open: Tue-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 10am-5pm

8 Bennet Street, SW1A 1RP, London, United Kingdom
Open: Tue-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 10am-5pm


Still Life

Skarstedt, London

Thu 30 Nov 2023 to Sat 24 Feb 2024

8 Bennet Street, SW1A 1RP Still Life

Tue-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 10am-5pm

Artists: John Chamberlain - George Condo - Eric Fischl - Hans Josephsohn - Martin Kippenberger - Bruce Nauman - Thomas Schütte - Rebecca Warren - Franz West

Skarstedt presents Still Life, a group exhibition featuring iconic works by John Chamberlain, George Condo, Eric Fischl, Hans Josephsohn, Martin Kippenberger, Bruce Nauman, Thomas Schütte, Rebecca Warren and Franz West. This exhibition spans the period from the 1980s down to the present, tracing modes of figuration and abstraction whilst celebrating the versatility of the medium. Uniting anthropomorphic forms with tongue-in-cheek interjections, this group of artists is revolutionary by nature, using the three-dimensional to vitalise key discourse.

Installation Views

Installation image for Still Life, at Skarstedt Installation image for Still Life, at Skarstedt Installation image for Still Life, at Skarstedt Installation image for Still Life, at Skarstedt Installation image for Still Life, at Skarstedt Installation image for Still Life, at Skarstedt Installation image for Still Life, at Skarstedt Installation image for Still Life, at Skarstedt Installation image for Still Life, at Skarstedt Installation image for Still Life, at Skarstedt Installation image for Still Life, at Skarstedt Installation image for Still Life, at Skarstedt

Frequently fusing satire and object-making, Franz West and Martin Kippenberger both emerged onto the global art scene in the 1970s and set about turning it on its head. Kippenberger’s Laterne (lamp) series was inspired by the popular cartoon imagery of the undulating lamp post, a nocturnal companion for lost drunkards. Untitled (1989-1990) is particularly anthropomorphic in shape, with the two ‘legs’ of the lamp post spread out and its lit-up ‘head’ looking out in animated address. Known for his similarly playful style, Franz West requires the viewer to complete his works through chains of association. In this instance, the pink-to-red gradient that characterises Untitled (2007) conjures up imagery of dentures and gums. West leaned heavily towards papier-mâché, explaining that ‘[he] came to this material because it’s cheap and easy to use. It doesn’t bleed. It doesn’t stink. And you can live with it without being afraid.’(1) Both artists achieved international acclaim for their revolutionary approach to sculpture, exhibiting with esteemed institutions like documenta in Kassel and the Venice Biennale, where Kippenberger debuted Laterne an Betrunkene (Street Lamp for Drunks, 1988), the first sculpture in the series in 1988.

Examples from Thomas Schütte and Rebecca Warren illustrate their profound curiosity with the female form – twisting, morphing and abstracting it. From his landmark series, Frauen (Women), Schütte cast a folded figure elegantly in bronze and placed her atop a steel workbench in Bronzefrau Nr.11 (2002), resembling the calming child’s pose in yoga. Utilising traditional materials and methods of production, Schütte’s Frauen series thoroughly examines and expands the relationship between the female form and sculpture. Evoking the powerful history of figurative sculpture, Rebecca Warren embodies both Giacometti’s vertical vision and Rodin’s monumentality, creating a series of stalagmite-esque sculptures to which EuGene (2012) belongs. Oscillating between fragility and power, Warren focuses on sculptural dialogue from a contemporary perspective.

Widely acclaimed as both painters and sculptors, Eric Fischl and George Condo explore the freedoms of the three-dimensional through their unique outlooks. Fischl’s Torso (2010) takes on classical attributes analogous to what we may see when strolling through the British Museum. Through the raw, sinuous lines of the figure, he lays bare the emotions of the protagonist, expressing that ‘the posture one’s body assumes carries with it all the memories of its experiences.’ (2) Meanwhile, Condo fashions a psychological landscape in The Picknickers (2009), incorporating his cartoonish characters into an absurd scene, recalling Manet’s shocking Le déjeuner sur l’herbe (1863).

Just one of the many monumental sculptures on display, Hans Josephsohn’s visceral work, Untitled (2002), stands tall at the average height of an adult female, depicting his celebrated ‘half-figure’ motif. Josephsohn demonstrates an unwavering commitment to the human subject, working primarily in plaster before casting his creations in brass. Whilst he remained loyal to sculpture throughout his lifetime, American artist Bruce Nauman has worked in every conceivable medium, exploring wax casting in Hanging Heads #1 (Blue Andrew, Mouth Open/Red Julie with cap) (1989). He pays homage to the most recurrent of classical forms - the bust - whilst simultaneously subverting conventional sculptural practice by physically turning it upside down.

Standing out for his lack of figuration, John Chamberlain channels a mode more akin to Abstract Expressionism. His works are often made up of crushed automobile steel, a ubiquitous material in the post-war era, which he skilfully imbued with musicality, density and poetry. Measuring over two and a half metres, Etruscan Romance (1984) asserts a stately presence, intensified also by its vertical emphasis - a distinctive feature of his 1980s practice.

Each work on view intertwines different narratives unique to each artist’s perspective. Whether embracing formal figuration, rejecting it in its entirety, or falling somewhere in between, this group of artists has brought a renewed energy to the medium and, notably, a life- size scale for the viewer to get lost in exploration.

(1) Franz West, quoted in D. Alexander, Franz West, To Build a House You Start with the Roof: Work, 1972-2008, exh. cat., The Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, 2008).
(2) Eric Fischl quoted in E. Wingate, Eric Fischl: Sculpture, Gagosian Gallery, New York, 1998, p. 4

Installation view, Still Life at Skarstedt, London, November 30, 2023 - February 2024

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