“Thomas Schütte: Frauen,” 2012. Exhibition view: the Castello di Rivoli, Torino.
Perfect is a much-abused word, but it accurately defines Thomas Schütte’s exhibition “Frauen” at the Castello di Rivoli, Turin. The show unfolds in the Castello’s most troublesome gallery, which stretches on and on like the Mont Blanc Tunnel. Some exhibitions have survived the space; others not. With Schütte, however, the artist triumphs. It is as if the gallery had been constructed to serve the sculpture it contains. “Frauen” is composed of eighteen sculptures of female bodies on steel tables. The series, which Schütte has been working on since 1999 (the most recent sculpture is from 2011), is an exploration of narrative volumes cast in aluminum, bronze, and steel. These larger-than-life representations of women are not portraits, nor depictions of the ideal; they are instead a majestic rumination on the history of figurative sculpture. Each has a different patina—some appear molten, some as if dug from the earth, while others seem modeled from intergalactic chrome.. Individually, it is impossible not to have favorites; mine is a creature that appears to be caught in a moment of intense evolution: its spine is arched and almost pushing through the skin. The effort appears both grotesque and exquisite. Together, they are as monumental and mysterious as the great stone heads of Rapa Nui. It’s a body of work that is destined to stand as an important marker in the history of modern sculpture.