Any question concerning the way the human being has been depicted and understood in 20th century sculpture will inevitably touch on the torso as a central theme which is as constant as it is diversified. Ever since Rodin, sculpture had been undergoing a change in its relationship with reality, and, by the end of the 19th century, it was already exploring the basic form of the human body as the starting point for completely autonomous abstract forms. In recent years there has been a growing interest in a return to the human form as a medium of artistic expression and experience and it is precisely against this background that the exhibition seeks to visualize the richly facetted, indeed altogether ambivalent phenomenon of the "torso" in modern sculpture.
Starting out from Rodin's famous "Iris, Messenger of the Gods" (Stuttgart), which must be regarded as one of the first deliberately created torsos in the history of art, the exhibition follows the history of the torso through to the immediate present. The incomplete human form belonged to the repertoires of almost all of the great masters of Classic Modernism, such as Maillol, Lehmbruck, Archipenko, Matisse, Brancusi and Giacometti, for example. The most striking treatments of this theme during the post-war years are to be found in the work of Arp, Moore and Wotruba, and also in the early work of Joseph Beuys. Besides being a theme of destruction and torture – primarily during the sixties – the torso has been the inspiration for surreal fantasms and fetish-like objects right up to the present. The currently most radical fragmentations of the human body are the monumental wood and bronze figures of Baselitz, Lüpertz and Kirkeby.
Prominent works from the collection of the Staatsgalerie will be complemented in the exhibition by works loaned from museums and private collections in Germany and abroad. Approximately 60 statues, wall objects and freestanding floor objects from the years between 1882 and 1999 together exemplify the richness of meaning which this theme has commanded from the inception of Modernism through to the present day.