Sweet Nothings. Print series by Thomas Schütte

14 November - 21 December 2018 / 3 - 27 Januar 2019

Opening: Tuesday 13 November 2018, doors open 6 p.m.

Flowers, a classic subject matter in the fine arts, have delighted people since time immemorial. Pretty and delicate, lightly scattered, shimmering in precious hues – that is also how they appear in the works of Thomas Schütte (born 1954). However, this German artist knows how to shatter the idyllic sweetness, often to considerable effect, with rough-drawn strokes across graceful lines, through which dark undertones creep into the herbarium. Indeed, many of his creations are imbued with an existential tipping-point that can suddenly transform the most beautiful things in life into their very opposite. As though the scepticism behind his gaze could not quite let him trust the deceptive promise of what he sees.
The Graphische Sammlung ETH Zürich possesses two particularly significant works by Thomas Schütte, who is considered one of the most important artists of our time. Both are examples of his famous and exquisitely designed book editions – Volume II. The Big Nix (2005) and Sweet Nothings (2008). Inspired by the livres de peintres that had emerged in France in the early twentieth century, Schütte has devoted himself to this genre for several years. When not actually publishing the books himself, he has them produced with exceptional typographical and printerly care in small editions containing original prints. However, these prints are neither pure illustrations nor free interpretations of any literary predecessor. Instead, the artist provides the text himself – either in the form of a short story in the appendix or in the form of diary-style notations.
This is why these finely crafted books by Thomas Schütte are at the very heart of this presentation. They are complemented by selected cycles of prints from private collections, showing not only a remarkable range of themes but also the broad spectrum of the great German sculptor’s technical repertoire within this medium. In addition to floral motifs, there are also architectural subjects and commentaries on current political issues, images of sassy women and introspective self-portraits. Above all, however, the printed oeuvre of Thomas Schütte combines unparalleled sophistication with an almost instinctive command of traditional printmaking techniques, interpreted and developed with new and innovative vitality. A sweeping overview of the past thirty years provides an insight into this singular mastery of the craft.
Curator: Alexandra Barcal

 

Thomas Schütte, Untitled, plate from the book: Sweet Nothings, Köln: Walther König, 2008, Etching, 46.5 x 35.5 cm, Inv.- Nr. 2015.75.19, Graphische Sammlung ETH Zürich © 2018, ProLitteris, Zurich

Thomas Schütte, Untitled, plate from the book: Sweet Nothings, Köln: Walther König, 2008, Etching, 46.5 x 35.5 cm, Inv.-Nr. 2015.75.20, Graphische Sammlung ETH Zürich © 2018, ProLitteris, Zurich

Thomas Schütte, Untitled, plate from the book: Sweet Nothings, Köln: Walther König, 2008, Etching, 46.5 x 35.5 cm, Inv.-Nr. 2015.75.7, Graphische Sammlung ETH Zürich © 2018, ProLitteris, Zurich

Thomas Schütte,  Not Me, plate from the book: Volume II. The Big Nix, Düsseldorf: [self publishing], 2005,  Etching, 42 x 33.5 cm, Inv.-Nr. 2013.168.11, Graphische Sammlung ETH Zürich © 2018, ProLitteris, Zurich

Thomas Schütte, Smoke, plate from the book: Volume II. The Big Nix, Düsseldorf: [self publishing], 2005, Etching, 42 x 33.5 cm, Inv.- Nr. 2013.168.13, Graphische Sammlung ETH Zürich © 2018, ProLitteris, Zurich

Thomas Schütte, Max, plate from the book: Volume II. The Big Nix, Düsseldorf: [self publishing], 2005, Etching, 42 x 33.5 cm, Inv.- Nr. 2013.168.10, Graphische Sammlung ETH Zürich © 2018, ProLitteris, Zurich