German-born Katharina Fritsch handcrafts sculptures and installations that replicate everyday objects rooted in folklore, Christianity, and personal history. Her uncanny sculptures leave viewers suspended between amusement and surreal nightmare.
Fritsch studied history and art at the University of Munster. In 1977, she transferred to the Dusseldorf Academy, where she is now Professor of Sculpture. There her training led her and her fellow students to an artistic style of clarity and exactitude.
Her painstaking fabrication entails sketches, handmade models, plaster castings, bronze, copper, or stainless steel re-castings. Finally she adds a coating of highly saturated matte paint to create her signature otherworldly effect of a unique and disturbing vision.
She manipulates the scale and sometimes the color of her figurative objects and arranges them in strange combinations in her installations. Her work has been described as an attempt to visualize our greatest fears rooted in mythology, religion, folklore, and cultural history. She divides her work into what she calls ‘good’ and ‘bad’ pieces, which refer to the forces of innocence or darkness. A ‘’good’ sculpture would be the tiny, naked white infant lying on its back on the floor, surrounded by animals.
Her 1993 sculpture “Knot” would fall into the ‘bad’ category. It is a large archetype of a knot, made of plaster, iron, and black matte pigment, created as part of the ‘Rat-King” installation that she made for New York’s Dia Arts Center in 1993. This installation consists of sixteen gigantic black polyester rats, facing outward in a circle with tails intertwined into a giant knot at the center. Later Frisch removed the knot and presented it as an independent sculpture. In like fashion Frisch has made a sculpture of a huge black mouse sitting on top of a figure in a pristine bed, covered in white linens, which was shown in the Seattle Museum.
When making sculptures of humans, she often collaborates with a certain male model in works such as her three ‘bad’ men: The Monk, the Doctor, and the Handler. She works first from photographs and makes the mold on top of the model’s body. When her main male model almost died from this process, she switched to making full body casts from mannequins. She still uses human models for the faces and hands of her sculptures. Just like her animal sculptures, her humans are also painted in one solid color to create images that appear like a vision.
Her work has been exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Tate Modern, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Seattle Art Museum, as well as museums in Germany.
Her work is found in the permanent collections of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Walker Art Center, the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, and the Museum Brandhorst in Munich.