Spanning across centuries of art movements, the human figure has been depicted and developed in numerous ways. Throughout different periods, it carried a huge significance as the most direct means by which art can address the human condition. In the tumult of the 20th century, however, the human figure became the site of immense change as artists sought to represent our fragile bodies in a time of unprecedented advancements.
The upcoming exhibition at Skarstedt will explore the many ways in which the components of artist, model, and representation have been configured and reconfigured from the mid-twentieth century to the present. Titled Faces and Figures, the exhibition will bring together paintings, sculptures, and photographs by Frank Auerbach, Francis Bacon, Georg Baselitz, George Condo, Willem de Kooning, Eric Fischl, Alberto Giacometti, Mark Grotjahn, Martin Kippenberger, Robert Mapplethorpe, Pablo Picasso, Richard Prince, Thomas Schütte, Cindy Sherman, and Andy Warhol.
A bleak chronicler of the human condition, Francis Bacon focused on the human face and body to express the inner reality of the human being. For this reason, he is often described as one of the purest representatives of the idea of "existential essentialism." In his explorations of the human body and flesh, Frank Auerbach thematized seeing, insisting that viewers take notice of how we perceive and form images in our mind and give them meaning.
Alberto Giacometti’s slender bronze figures, associated with the angst of the post-war era, are recognized around the world. His famed final work Buste d’homme assis (Lotar III) features Eli Lotar, a photographer and his frequent sitter. In this work, the artist typifies this tripartite of artist, model and representation. Willem de Kooning was strongly influenced by Giacometti, incorporating the same modes of perspectival shifts, space and texture. On this subject, art historian Rosalind Krauss wrote, "De Kooning’s own Head #3 (1973), with its rugged surface and incompatible points of view echoes what Sartre had written about the presence of the sculptor as the ambient point of view."
On the other hand, Pablo Picasso upturned the spatial evaluation of both faces and figures. He engaged simultaneously with the past and present, embodying all three components of artist, model, and representation, stating, "movement of the painting, the dramatic effort from one vision to the next, even if the effort is not carried through. I have reached the stage where the movement of my thought interests me more than the thought itself". Robert Mapplethorpe's photography reveals his fascination with the form of the human body. He sought perfection in form in all his subjects, which is exemplified in his depictions of powerful bodies that are reminiscent of classical Greek sculpture and governed by rules of symmetry and geometry.
The exhibition Faces and Figures takes place in two locations: at Skarstedt's flagship 79th street location in Manhattan (17 works), and continues at their East Hampton location (8 works), from February 18th until April 16th, 2021.
Featured image: Andy Warhol - Mao, 1973. Acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas, 12 1/8 x 10 1/8 inches (30.8 x 25.7 cm) © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. All images courtesy of Skardtedt.