Contemporary artist Thomas Schütte (German, b. 1954) is best known for his public large-scale sculptures of figures that reimagine the role of statuary and monuments. The artist’s fascination with architecture as a kind of public sculpture that is both symbolic and practical complements his figurative practice and its exploration of the human form. Since the 1980s, Schütte has created a series of architectural models that conjure up spaces ranging from a tiny efficient home to a temple.
Thomas Schütte: Crystal, Schütte’s site-specific installation at the Clark, is the artist’s first full-scale architectural artwork in the United States. It is located on a meadow near the top of Stone Hill, close to the woodland’s edge.
Schütte arrived at the unusual asymmetrical shape of Crystal by imagining a small piece of crystal scaled up to architectural proportions. The interior is clad in wood and references the traditional materials of rural vernacular architecture; the outside is zinc-coated copper, a modern material that speaks to contemporary means and methods.
Visitors enter the structure through doors on the northwest side; the southeast side of the structure is open and frames a view of six wild cherry and ash trees and the Hoosac mountain range that spreads out behind them toward North Adams. By drawing the visitor’s attention to this somewhat unexpected view, Crystal provides visitors the opportunity to reflect on how landscapes and places, including the Clark’s campus, are constructed and preserved. The structure’s unusual construction does not clearly communicate its purpose, allowing visitors to construct their own meanings for this newly made place.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website
Whether you go or not, Thomas Schütte, presents a retrospective on his career to this point, offering fascinating insight into nearly thirty years of artistic development. Since the 1980s, Thomas Schütte has been forging a highly individual, enigmatic, and stunningly diverse œuvre, one that stretches beyond the reach of all trends and fashions.
Schütte has played a substantial role in the revival of figural work in contemporary art, and, in particular, has worked to develop sculpture and statuary art as an “anti-sculptor.” This lavishly illustrated volume reveals the multi-layered subjects and diverse artistic processes employed in his work, which encompasses bronze, wood, ceramic, and steel, as well as more unusual materials like aluminum and Fimo modeling clay. From massive, bulky women and gnome-like midgets to monumental warriors or representations of thought-patterns, all the artworks reproduced here testify to the singular genius of Thomas Schütte. Many of his sculptures are to be found in American museums, like the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, or the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.