Head On (2022), curated by Dieter Schwarz, explored sculptural depictions of the human visage. This exhibition continued the gallery’s tradition of special presentations devoted to sculpture. Representations of the face have been foundational to visual culture, from ancient Mesoamerican sculpture to Renaissance portraiture and on to contemporary social media. Throughout the twentieth century, modernism found artists sculpturally abstracting, distorting, and exaggerating the face, revealing its relationship to outside social and technological forces.
Schwarz—former director of the Kunstmuseum Winterthur in Switzerland and curator of the Skulpturenhalle at Düsseldorf’s Thomas Schütte Foundation—gathered sculptures spanning nearly a century: from André Derain’s Personnage sans menton (c. 1930s) to Fautrier’s Tête d’otage (1943–44), Anthony Caro’s Cigarette Smoker I (1957), Asger Jorn’s Contemplazione faticata (1972), and William Tucker’s Masks (2022). Together, these works trace a surprising and evocative history of approaches to expression. Working across styles and schools, the exhibited artists have challenged the traditional bounds of representation, as Schwarz describes, “building and destroying, caressing and attacking the figure, transgressing formal conventions and inventing faces not seen yet.”
Head On featured faces imaginary and studied from life. In materials including bronze, painted steel, ceramic, and polychrome plaster, the sculptures foreground the artist’s hand, revealing the nuanced and complex ways to convey vulnerability, eros, absurdity, and the ineffable. Alongside heads by Willem de Kooning, Marisa Merz, and Schütte, were Lucio Fontana’s glazed ceramic Ritratto di Valeria (1951), Joan Miró’s bronze Tête (1972), and John Chamberlain’s colored steel masks (1998), among others.