What does Charles Ray’s faintly lumpish, touched-all-over Tractor (2004) have in common with Jeff Koons’s glistening, meticulously machined Balloon Dog (1994–2000)? And what does either of these celebrated icons have to do with Katharina Fritsch’s fluorescent yellow, human-scaled apparition Madonnenfigur (Madonna Figure) (1987)?
Anticipating the Moderna Museet survey (October 2014–January 2015) that will bring together the sculptural work of Katharina Fritsch, Jeff Koons, and Charles Ray, the exhibition’s curator and Art Center adjunct faculty member Jack Bankowsky will present a distinguished panel at Art Center’s Pasadena campus to discuss the show-in-progress and the critical issues it raises.
When these far-flung artists first made their respective presences felt in the late 1970s, Minimalism and Conceptualism remained the status quo against which ambitious new art would inevitably measure and define itself. The work for which the subjects of this show are recognized today—pointedly figural, quotidian in reference, and resolutely sculptural—was, at the time, all but unimaginable as the shape of serious art to come.
What were the pressures and desires that precipitated these unanticipated developments? How did these old gambits once again come to seem viable bearers of advanced artistic intention? If these artists have, in whole or in part, located their endeavors within the specific terms and demands of the discipline of sculpture, are the affinities that link their practices more or less decisive than the differences that separate them? And, finally, how might we situate their simultaneously kindred and various approaches with respect to disparate concurrent tendencies—the neo-Dada resurgence in the art of recent decades, the ubiquitous return of the readymade, or the rise of the inter-media experimentation that has come to be known as installation art?
In triangulating the affinities and differences among this trio of sculptors, even as we situate their practices against the broader range of current artistic endeavors, this roundtable proposes to reckon with the “how” and the “why” of sculpture today.
Panel members include Michael Fried, J.R. Herbert Boone Professor of Humanities and the History of Art at Johns Hopkins University, and the author of numerous books including, most recently, Four Honest Outlaws: Sala, Ray, Marioni, Gordon (Yale University Press, 2011); Isabelle Graw, the critic and co-founder of the Berlin-based journal Texte Zur Kunst, and the author of High Price: Art Between the Market and Celebrity Culture (Sternberg, 2010); Scott Rothkopf, the Whitney Museum of American Art Curator and Associate Director of Programs currently at work on the first American museum retrospective devoted to Koons’s art; Michelle Kuo, Editor-in-Chief of Artforum, and co-editor with Rothkopf of the magazine’s special issue “The Art of Production” (October 2007); and, finally, the widely admired LA-based sculptor and protagonist of the exhibition, Charles Ray. A survey of Ray’s work since 1997 will open at the Museum für Gegenwartskunst and Kunstmueum in Basel, Switzerland, in June 2014 before traveling to The Art Institute of Chicago.
A joint effort of Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, and the Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sculpture After Sculpture is made possible thanks to the generosity of Brenda R. Potter and the American Friends of the Moderna Museet.