Thomas SchÜtte, Gelber Hund, 2003
Gelber Hund, 2003. Glazed ceramic. Overall: 213 × 125 × 85 cm (84 × 43 1/4 × 23 5/8 in).
PROVENANCE Galerie Konrad Fischer, Düsseldorf Private Collection, Europe
EXHIBITIED Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Thomas Schütte. Hindsight, 16 February 2010 – 17 May 201
“So far as meanings are concerned, I would rather talk with my own hands and through forms and let these creatures live their own stories.” THOMAS SCHÜTTE “History is really a dangerous field to go digging in. But when you do have an idea, then it’s very useful – to go get information or to revise your work, or to revitalise you. If you look at the hundreds of heads in the Capoline Museum [in Rome] they are incredible. Just to look with fresh eyes, as if they were done today, not with the tunnel of art history.” (The artist in an interview with James Lingwood in Thomas Schütte, London, 1997) Thomas Schütte trained under Gerhard Richter at the Düsseldorf Art Academy, graduating in 1981. Since then, the artist’s diverse body of work, which consistently delivers his particular vision of history’s influence on the contemporary, has been received with ever wider acclaim. Gelber Hund is one of a number of works in which Schütte has revisited his time spent living in Rome in 1992, drawing inspiration from the city’s rich artistic tradition. This potent conceptual work dwells on historical allegory; the dog’s flipper-like tail and Sphinx-like posture pay homage to the mythical creatures which adorn classical and Renaissance sculpture. The ancient Greek Sphinx, later revived in Renaissance sculptural imagery, was not only a symbolic guardian figure but one that could be merciless too. This historical premise has been reconfigured in Schütte’s Gelber Hund. At first, the sculpture suggests a child’s toy with its innocent expression and inviting yellow colour. On closer inspection, brutal disfigurement becomes evident – blood appears to drip down the body suggesting that this creature might have been a victim of human cruelty. Thus an improbable dichotomy appears between the suggestion of a mythical creature and its apparent physical violation. Shying away from obvious narratives, Schütte often caveats the ambiguity in his work by presenting his subjects in a monumental manner. Gelber Hund exemplifies this grandiose sculptural style, such as that of the ancient equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelis in the Campidoglio, Rome, with a plinth but made from humble materials such as wooden crates and metal poles. This grandiose manner of presentation is a theme which recurs in Schütte’s work and is akin to his Stahlfrau series which he was working on at the same time as Gelber Hund. The visceral female nudes of Stahlfrau, comparable to Gelber Hund in their various unflattering and mutilated states, are presented on large steel tables which accentuate small scale of the female figures’ exposed torsos. In both cases, the victim has been placed on a pedestal, offering an ironical take on the grandeur of commemorative sculpture, and in so doing, reiterating the ambiguit which has come to define Schütte’s work. “In Schütte’s world, the romantic, the sceptic and the pragmatic constantly rub up against one another. Reflexive and restless, generous and jaundiced, Schütte reveals a contemporary artistic predicament whilst excavating some of the less comfortable aspects of the human condition.” (From the guide by James Lingwood and James Peto accompanying the exhibition ‘Thomas Schütte’ at Whitechapel Gallery, London, 1997)