MSB brainstorming

05 January 2014

Lucie Schenker Drawings

First published June 5, 2007


I recently did a podcast on an important “midcareer” artist in Switzerland, Lucie Schenker. My contribution had such terrible sound that I am putting a transcript of my discussion here, for those who don’t want the pain of listening to my feedback-backgrounded, tinny broadcast.

This is Mark Staff Brandl, the central European Bureau for Bad At Sports as well as the EuroShark. I hope this comes out well, as I am having some feedback problems on my computer and bad sound on my digital recorder. I appear to be audio-challenged. It was great to have met all you Chicagoans and to have participated in your artworld during ArtChicago. You have the beginnings of a great scene, the best yet in Chicago, one to challenge LA, London and so on. So don’t blow it by self-destructing or conducting another little junta-takeover like in the late 80s Neo-Con crap one. I wrote a post on my adventures at the fair over on Go check it out.

This week I’m quickly covering a beautiful little show of drawings and one sculpture by one of the best Swiss sculptors. Her name is Lucie Schenker. Lucie SHOULD be having a retrospective at the St.Gallen Museum due to her quality and extensive career (she is just turning 65 although she doesn’t look it at all, and although I hate to name ages in this ageist artworld).

She is drastically underappreciated here, another example of a self-concocted, provincial problem due to the Malinchismo of a local consensus curatorial clique. Oh well. Anyway. Schenker has this show in Kathrinen, an ex-monastery once on the edge of the town of St. Gallen, but now in the very middle, behind the local McDonalds, actually. It is a beautiful room off to one side of the central courtyard; one that is almost too nice for art. Schenker has mastered this well with a show of 38 works in graphite on white drafting vellum. I tried to tape a version of my contribution live, but the acoustics of the space and my ineptitude made for terrible sound. Too bad because I did it with an art class of mine and with Lucie there --- and we spoke a mish-mash of languages which can be one of the most fun parts of life in Switzerland.


Schenker is know for her sculptures, installations and public works created using “Gitter,” that is metal-grid material including screening and chain-link fencing and the like. Often these works were painted only on the inside, creating pleasingly buoyant takes on minimalism. Her excellent installation at the Kunsthalle Arbon just a few years ago summed up this period. She also created many subtle stone lithographs based on the overlapping grids seen in her sculptures, printed at the shop of the world-renowned master printer Urban Stoob, with whom I also print (and who does far more famous artists like Tapies, Tony Craig, Gunther Uecker, Motherwell, and many more. He deserves a show on BAS all his own.)

Recently Lucie has broken through into an entirely new realm of pneumatic works --- air-filled plastic or latex tubes, usually higher than a human, which snake in and around architecture, filling entire rooms and hallways, filtering light, casting amazing shadows and even sometimes moving before your eyes.

As a sidelight to these works, she began a series of representational drawings --- something she hadn’t done in a long time. They are done in precisely blended graphite on white vellum sheets. The sheets are raised from the backboard in the frames allowing the drawings to also glow slightly with ambient reflected light --- much like her pneumatic sculptures.

I said representational, but you don’t register that always at first. They can appear to be quite abstract, almost Arp-like. Schenker takes areas of the human body, sometimes based on remembrances of poses from art history, drapes or wraps the areas in plastic or the like and then draws them. They are well-chosen, “closed” areas of detail, that is, they do not have that typical appearance of chopped off parts that seems so common in art (mostly by men) when it features details of the body. This is also what tends to make them appear abstract, rounded organic forms which could be stones, or textiles or landscape elements. Sometimes, though, they are quite blatant --- a belly and a breast, two hands much like those of Mona Lisa, but with rubber gloves on (one female student joked that maybe she had to do the dishes after posing for Leonardo).


The sculpture is made of flesh-colored latex and is a skin-like full-body suit which could be worn. Lucie has hung it open, upside-down, suspended under tension between the ceiling and the floor. It was both delicate and scary --- like a flayed human skin. It reminded me of the skin of St. Bartholomew is holding in Michelangelo’s Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel (often thought to be a self-portrait by the artist --- the skin is, that is, not the saint), and of Titian’s portrayal of the Flaying of Marsyas, a satyr, who was flayed alive for daring to challenge Apollo (here). The reference to the body made it a wonderful addition to the show and suggested a bridge between the drawings and her inflated-plastic installation works.

These drawings are genuinely a high point of her career. The drawings are objects, strike one as sculptural. They are masterfully technically drawn (not shitty-drawing style work here), yet are not simply displays of competence. The works, in a variety of sizes but averaging about 3 ft high by 2 feet wide, cover two walls of the space arranged freely on the wall in a frieze-like block, but not aligned or in rows. They unite delicacy with strength, atmosphere with solidity and the human with the sculptural. Great work.

I hope to talk at you soon again from Europe ---and see you soon again in Chicago. Bye.

The podcast is at Bad at Sports here

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