Group of Figures is a tightly arranged ensemble of nine sculptures that Fritsch first conceived and made in 2006–08 using painted polyester, then recast in 2010–11 in painted steel, bronze, and copper intended for outdoor display. From left to right, resting on the ground and on pedestals, the piece features Saint Michael slaying a dragon, skeletal feet and shinbones, Saint Nicholas, a giant leaning on a club, an urn, Saint Catherine, the head and torso of an unidentified woman, and a Madonna. A snake rests before them. Each sculpture is a single color: white, black, gray, or a commanding shade of green, purple, or yellow. Clustered together, facing forward, they are positioned almost as if in storage rather than on public view. For Fritsch, some of these sculptures make symbolic or autobiographical references (skeletal feet appeared in one childhood dream); all evoke the odd sense of simultaneous familiarity and strangeness typical of her work.
Born in Essen, Germany, Fritsch concentrated on painting during her earlier student years. Though she decided instead to study sculpture at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, paint and its properties remained central to her stated ambition to “make sculptures that were paintings and paintings that were sculptures.” Fritsch’s use of color, in particular, has long contributed to her art’s startling clarity and exactitude; here the bright hues and matte monochrome finishes fix the sculptures indelibly in the viewer’s mind.
Publication excerpt from From MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019).