Skarstedt NY presents 'Faces & Figures' group show
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Skarstedt NY presents 'Faces & Figures' group show
Installation, Skarstedt NY, Faces & Figures, January - February 2023. Courtesy of Skarstedt. Photo Credit: John Berens.

NEW YORK, NY.- Skarstedt has announced its winter group exhibition, Faces and Figures. Sprawling across the gallery’s three locations in New York, London, and Paris, the exhibition comprises paintings and sculptures that demonstrate the myriad ways in which artist, model, and character have been configured and reconfigured from the mid-twentieth century to the present. Whether used as an investigation into the human form, a meditation on internal states, a rumination on greater cultural or political events, or a channel through which to bridge the gap between high and low art, figuration has played an irreplaceable role in the history of art, foregrounding artistic expression from its earliest days. The breadth of the exhibition— including artists from America and Europe, and from periods as disparate as German Neo-Expressionism, The Pictures Generation, and more—illustrates how these themes have manifested across different cultures, time periods, and styles.

In New York, the weathered face of an aging Francis Bacon gazes upon its viewers in Study for Self-Portrait (1979). A perennial documentarian of those people who mattered most to him, Bacon was faced with his own mortality after mourning the loss of so many of those prior subjects. Georg Baselitz, on the other hand, uses the face—characteristically rendered upside down—to speak to broader cultural themes as he tackles the tumult of German identity after the war in his Trinker (Drinker) (1981). Meanwhile, humor and frenzy abound in the imagined characters of George Condo’s universe, such as the overwhelming Munch-like figures in Antipodal Mindscape (1996) or the passionately distorted face of his Totemic Personage (2012), both exploring his theories of psychological cubism and artificial realism. A brand-new painting by Cristina BanBan, Tres Dones (2023), anchors the second floor of the gallery with three of her characteristically powerful women, whose bodies appear almost as one form as their limbs overlap and cross one another, evincing the artist’s turn towards a balance between representation and abstraction. The use of the figure in BanBan’s practice acts as a filter for the sights, sounds, and feelings of her everyday life, and the assured manner in which her women appear before us a reversal of the traditional representation of the nude figure throughout art history.

In London, sculptures by KAWS and Hans Josephsohn explore the figure in three dimensions across styles and media. Josephsohn’s Untitled (Mirjam) (1950) renders in brass the corporeality and weight of the human body, with its slim, stele-like form, rooted in modernist notions of the figure. American contemporary artist KAWS, meanwhile, creates characters inspired by well-known cartoons to speak to the ubiquity of these symbols and to touch upon current topics in a decidedly accessible manner. In FINAL DAYS (2014), one of his beloved characters charges towards the viewer, arms outstretched, as if he is the grim reaper coming to collect us in our “final days,” as we globally continue to destroy the earth. Two-dimensional works by Thomas Schütte and Georg Baselitz lend an unsettling look at emotions of fear, anger, and grief.

In Paris, Willem de Kooning’s final sculpture—Large Torso of 1974—operates at the intersection of figuration and abstraction, seen through the tactility of the sculpture that leaves precise traces of the artist’s hand. Elsewhere in the gallery, artists disguise themselves through alter egos, such as Pablo Picasso’s Tête d’Arlequin Masqué (Head of a Harlquin in a Mask) (1971)—a figure Picasso would turn to repeatedly throughout his long career when he wanted to experiment with several distinct styles at once. Transfixed in his gaze, with his mouth slightly ajar, the harlequin’s aging face reflects many of the same concerns as Bacon’s self-portrait in New York, and indeed the work was painted when Picasso was nearly ninety years old.

With artists such as Baselitz, Condo, de Kooning, and KAWS represented in multiple locations of the exhibition, Faces and Figures offers a unique opportunity to view them through the lens of diverse relationships and themes. All told, the exhibition will feature works by such esteemed artists as Francis Bacon, Cristina BanBan, Georg Baselitz, George Condo, John Currin, Willem de Kooning, Eric Fischl, Alberto Giacometti, Chantal Joffe, Hans Josephsohn, KAWS, A.R. Penck, Pablo Picasso, Paula Rego, David Salle, Thomas Schütte, Cindy Sherman, and Andy Warhol.

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