If you’ve visited MoMA recently, perhaps you spotted a curious bright yellow figure in the garden from its lobby window. A closer look reveals that the lemony form is actually a Madonna, who’s surrounded by a grey giant, an emerald St. Michael, an ebony snake, a set of skeleton feet, and other peculiar creatures. These are the work of German artist Katharina Fritsch, who completed the painted polyester installation, Figurengruppe (Group of Figures) four years ago. She recast the ensemble last year in lacquered copper and bronze for this outdoor display, part of the museum’s seasonal Figure in the Garden series. Since April, a different cast of characters has invaded the roof of the Art Institute of Chicago via three groups of Fritsch works. Stilleben/1st Still Life, Stilleben/3rd Still Life, and Apfel/Apple were made between 2009 and 2012, cast in bronze, copper, plastic, and epoxy. St. Michael and Madonna make an appearance, as do an apple, an egg, an oversized hand, and a human skull.
Fritsch’s glossy, silken figures drenched in radiant color command attention, while their gripping, carefully choreographed arrangement seems to imply some deeper narrative. The artist’s explanation is ambiguous, however: she relates some statues to dreams, others to found knickknacks, and others still to her Catholic upbringing.
Fritsch first visited the project site only when she began installing the presentation at the start of the spring, having finalized the showcase using a model from her Düsseldorf studio. The sculptures were commissioned especially for the Art Institute thanks to the Prince Prize for Commissioning Original Work, an award given each year by the Prince Charitable Trusts to support collaborations between emerging mid-career artists and major institutions. Fritsch is the only visual artists to date who has received the honor.
Image: Katharina Fritsch’s rooftop installation at the Art Institute of Chicago. © elbelbelb2000, via flickr.