About the Exhibition
Towering in cast bronze, it is astonishing that Thomas Schütte’s United Enemies has its origins in a series of small figures the artist made with modeling clay in the early 1990s. Schütte (b. 1954, Oldenburg, Germany) conceived the series during a residency in Italy at a time when several politicians had been arrested for corruption. These figures, however, are mythical characters rather than specific individuals. Their paired forms are highly abstracted, with heads emerging from swaddling robes that conceal their limbs. Faces are aged and anguished, rendered in soft focus to suggest the waning power of would-be patriarchs. In contrast, the tightly knotted rope that binds them is sharply detailed, drawing the figures -- and our eyes -- into focus.
Monumental bronze statuary is among the most traditional forms of public art. The artist’s choice of Central Park for the display of this work places it in dialogue with that tradition. With typical inventiveness, Schütte has taken a conventional form and made it relevant. His colossal figures do not stand heroically atop a classical pedestal but seem to stagger, earthbound, on tripods of bundled poles. Struggling to be rid of its mate, each figure is nevertheless incapable of standing alone. They have become potent contemporary metaphors: sculpted giants that simultaneously resonate with the mythological, the political, and the personal.
This exhibition is curated by Nicholas Baume.