Artistfacts: Lara Schnitger
Contemporary sculpture is a wasteland. Not as a result of a dearth of extremely talented artists but because most galleries only give lip service to showing works by young, emerging sculptors. Thus I was very excited to get to see works by Lara Schnitger recently. These works intrigue and disturb, draw in, disquiet and are very much part of the zeitgeist of the time.
Lara Schnitger is a Dutch artist, born in 1969, currently living in Los Angeles and Amsterdam whose work is boldly feminist, full of humor and anger, politically charged and at times semi- pornographic. She is best known for giant fabric sculptures, many of which with catchy names, such as Pas de Deux, We Are Sexy, Beijing Bitch, Proud Slut. Although originally her works focused on the misfits and outliers of society: I Want Kids (2005) deals with pedophilia, Grim Boy (2005) with the angst ridden teenager, she tends to be best known for the works that explore female representation, female protest, female identity, women’s ownership of their bodies, and sexuality, women’s desire for motherhood.
Other works are massive, totem like, dancing figures. The “Mothership” in the Rubell collection is a massive tower (108″x120″x130″) of a cow patterned fabric stretched over joined sticks of wood, and culminating in a canvas representation of a nipple, referencing the act of breast-feeding made shortly after the Lara became a mother.
” Icebergs” incorporates fur and “126 inches of Fun” is made of silky fabric and black lace. All appear ready to move around the galley with effortless grace, like dancers in voluminous ball gowns.
Her style and process is on the surface firmly craft based, often a derogatory term in the art world. She starts with fabric, knitting, quilting or dyeing it, then assembling it into sculptures, puppet like, anthropomorphic forms or large banners. One piece, “Vanity Man”, is made out of dozens of old neckties.” Rabble Rouser” is composed of scarves, political protest T-shirts and bumper stickers with slogans such as “Wearing buttons is not enough”. The materials used and stylistic elements are influenced by her time in China and Japan and explore the push and pull of cultures. The faces of the women often have a wistful, romantic, old-fashioned air. The pureness of vision, the visceral honesty of the emotions and the strong sculptural forms empower the pieces.
The fabrics do not blend seamlessly together but rather clash, with plaids, dots, checks, discordant colors. The armature of lightweight wood is left plainly visible. At time, the materials are like clothing, at others translucent they appear to stand alone with the works more vulnerable.
She has stated:” Sculpture was always something very exciting for me. I wanted to get it off the pedestal; let it walk, talk, move around; play with the space. I always like to see things get made in new ways. I feel myself more a sculptor than an object-maker: I definitely deal with gravity and space and materials”
Her collages depict strong women, often in sexy if not lascivious poses. The narrative is explicit. Schnitger ’s pictorial sensibility is sexually charged and feminist. There is no question as to the fact that it is the woman who controls, who desires, who owns the space. Suggestive text clarifies any misconceptions the viewer might have about it such as” It ain’t Gonna Lick Itself” or “I at least had fun”, “Milk Pistols”or “My Other Car is a Broom”.
In 2013 she developed a line of couture clothing, “Sister of Arp” and began a traveling hybrid procession-protest piece “Suffragette City” that draws inspiration from occult rituals to champion performance based explorations of what it means to be a woman, irrespective of your physique, race, sexuality or sexual proclivity. The processions and protests include tapestries, banners and sculptures. The name, Suffragette City harks back to the beginning of the feminist movement, when women fought for the right to vote and considers how much further we have to go. At the same time it creates a community of protesters. Suffragette City is often shown alongside a work called Slut Parade that was inspired by the marches that happened internationally where women dress in lingerie, asserting their right to wear what they want without being harassed. This work strongly ties into the women marches and #metoomovement currently occurring.
Anton Kern Gallery in New York recently released a call for volunteers for an upcoming performance by artist Lara Schnitger during Frieze New York on Randalls Island in May 2018. I look forward to seeing it as well as more of her work.
It is exciting to view works that engage with such dry wit some of the important issues of today and makes work you recall and engage with.