Patinated bronze and steel, 12 elements
Wichte—German for “density”—is made up of twelve sculpted heads with rough, sometimes deformed or caricatured features. Set in bronze, the sculptures also have a corporeal and aesthetic quality reminiscent of the United Enemies series from the 1990s, presented alongside it in the inaugural exhibition at the Bourse de Commerce, entitled "Ouverture".
Thomas Schütte's interest in head and bust sculpture began in the mid-1980s with rudimentarily worked polychrome woods and plaster casts. This work on the figure and the representation of the human body participates in a dynamic of the rejection of the conceptual and the abstract, in favour of a return to expressionism, narrative, and allegory.
Each face in this series is animated by a distinct emotion, presenting a range of psychologies and a “grammar of the character,” to use the artist's term. These heads evoke the timeless figures of sculpted portraits in the history of art, those of Roman emperors and dignitaries, prophets and saints. Perched on small metal pedestals installed high up, the heads without busts of these theatrical, often grotesque figures look down on the visitor with authority.
Modelled in an hour, their eyes often missing or elusive, these representations mock power and its personification. Betrayed by their emotions to the point of madness, weighed down by their treatment, these characters invite neither homage nor submission. They constitute a gallery that is more like a row of tired carnival figures, on which the visitor can cast an amused, if not benevolent, eye.