Old Friends Revisited (2021)
In the late Roman Republic, sculptural portraiture was dominated by verism – a style that emphasized physiognomic peculiarities. German artist Thomas Schütte encountered such portraiture during a stay in Rome, and its inspiration is apparent in his group of “United Enemies” from the early 1990s, a central body of work in his oeuvre. Made from polymer modeling clay, Schütte molded bulbous, sagging, and wrinkled heads with hyperbolized and often severe expressions, dressed the figures in fabric, and bound them together at the waist – a literalization of the aphorism “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” These eccentric visages appear and reap-pear throughout Schütte’s work, cohering his practices across media: in sculpture, photography, and drawing.In his edition for TEXTE ZUR KUNST, “Old Friends Revisited,” Schütte refers to and extends this genealogy. The edition returns specifically to a series of photographs from 1993, “Old Friends,” and a group of etchings from 2010–2011, “Alte Freunde (Old Friends).” The composition here, however, is more dynamic: captured at close proximity in three-quarter view, the topography of this friend’s benevolent face is accentuated by warm yellow light, illuminating its hills and crevices unevenly and creating rich chiaroscuro. The resulting portrait fully embodies this key subject from Schütte’s work over the last 30 years and situates it anew: after a year characterized by isolation and social distance, there is distinct pleasure in encountering old friends again.