Tony Cragg, who selected and hung Gallery VIII, is a man of decided views. He thinks there should always be at least one room reserved entirely for sculpture at the Summer Exhibition, and that sculpture deserves more space. He’s also disappointed that the Academy doesn’t show more work by foreign artists. Hence the entirely German content of this gallery (Cragg has lived and taught in Germany for thirty years, so he may well know German better than English art).
The differences between the seven sculptors shown testify to the diversity of German sculpture today. It’s no longer dominated by a single approach or attitude and is too varied to permit a single descriptive term such as ‘Expressionist’ or ‘Conceptual’. All the artists are in mid-career. Stephan Balkenhol makes wooden sculptures of curiously inanimate standing figures roughly hewn with power saws and chisels from poplar or fir and then painted in bright colours. Katharina Fritsch’s work exploits powerful contrasts. Here is a pair of skeletal legs and feet standing on a plinth in front of a greatly enlarged photograph of a pleasant garden – Et in arcadia ego, so to speak.
Katharina Fritsch, Garden Sculpture and Photo (Rose Garden), 2006 Polyester, paint, silkscreen, forex; 140 x 40 x 40 cm.
Isa Genzken works with contrasting, expressive materials, here, concrete and ceramics. Georg Herold’s sculpture is dramatic, an image representing panic, perhaps, recalling the artist’s unsuccessful attempt years ago to escape to the West from the GDR. Martin Honert shows a group of street-wise, caricatured boys, more ridiculous than threatening. Wilhelm Mundt creates large, polished fibreglass objects containing rubbish; logically enough, he calls them Trashstones. Tobias Rehberger makes objects that playfully allude to the design styles of thirty or more years ago. Sadly, Tony Cragg himself is missing from this gallery, as he is from the rest of the exhibition.