The artist Katharina Fritsch is world-famous. Her monochrome, stylized, usually larger-than-life figures are unforgettable. For example, for her famous Rattenkönig (rat king) she placed two dozen metre-high black rats in a circle, tying them together at the back, by their tails. Her work weaves together concrete (childhood) memories with universal anxieties and archetypal images.
The subject of a series produced between 2005 and 2007 is Fritsch’s home town of Essen. These important works are now on show in Essen for the first time. Fritsch is exhibiting her impressive silkscreen prints together with sculptures at Museum Folkwang and this is complemented by a presentation at Villa Hügel. This means that the entire series can be viewed in Essen.
Museum Folkwang is showing postcards from Essen and its surroundings which Fritsch has enlarged considerably and estranged, changing their colours by means of silkscreen printing. The postcards were from her grandfather, who used them to send greetings from his home town to his granddaughter in neighbouring Düsseldorf, the city where Fritsch now teaches as a professor at the Kunstakademie. The scenes portrayed on these historic postcards dating from the 1970s and 1980s include Lake Baldeney with sailing ships and the Grugapark with its water fountains. Fritsch arranges them with her 1. Gartenskulptur (Torso) (1st garden sculpture [torso]) and her 2. Gartenskulptur (Vase) (2nd garden sculpture [vase]) to create precise spatial installations.
Fritsch’s sculpture on show at Museum Folkwang, 1. Gartenskulptur (Torso), was based on a piece by sculptor Ernst Conze that the artist saw repeatedly as a child in her neighbours’ garden. This work by Ernst Conze shows similarities with a torso by Wilhelm Lehmbruck that Conze presumably saw at Museum Folkwang. The museum has been in possession of a cast of this torso since 1912. The artist complements the postcards in the series with her own photographs of gardens and lakes. She uses these to adorn the exhibition space at Villa Hügel. At the centre of this installation is 1. Foto (Rosengarten) (1st photo [rose garden]) which she positions with 3. Gartenskulptur (Skelettfüße) (3rd garden sculpture [skeleton feet]) so that the two pieces enter into dialogue.
Once again, Fritsch mixes the personal with the collective. These works’ lightness also tells of Germany’s Economic Miracle. She mysteriously alternates between melancholy, lightheartedness, escapism and illusoriness. Her reproduced copies of copies take their lead from the approach to images adopted by Pop Art, but the poetic power of their content goes in an utterly different direction. Indeed, they have the look of the overlapping images of memory, images which fade a little, shift and change every time we access them.