DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Tucked away on a side street in West Hollywood, some very large, surprising and funny sculptures should be on public view right now. They were made by a 64-year-old German sculptor whose work has been seen at major U.S. museums. But this is her first LA solo show. And the gallery is closed because of the pandemic. Happily, NPR special correspondent Susan Stamberg got to see the show and meet the artist before the city shut its doors. And Susan found a sculptor as interesting as her work.
KATHARINA FRITSCH: The chicken, they don't care so much about the rooster. So the rooster has a really lonely life.
SUSAN STAMBERG, BYLINE: I never thought to come to an art gallery and stand around talking about chickens. This is new.
FRITSCH: What is new, to talk about chicken?
But sculptor Katharina Fritsch thinks they're interesting, sociable.
FRITSCH: They have a language. They have 30 sounds for food.
STAMBERG: Or so she's heard. Fritsch is not only a chicken aficionado.
FRITSCH: Yeah. I love rats.
STAMBERG: Sure, rats, but it's chickens that made her reputation, male chickens, roosters. A giant blue rooster sits perched on the roof of the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. He looks over Constitution Avenue, one of the most important streets in the capital of the free world. A rooster, by Katharina Fritsch - why?
FRITSCH: I had, for a long time, a stuffed one in my atelier because I bought it. I liked it so much. It looked so nice (laughter).
STAMBERG: She made her first rooster for Trafalgar Square in London - blue. It was then moved to Washington.
FRITSCH: It brings joy, you know, to the capital.
STAMBERG: It does. In February, one of Fritsch's roosters flew to a gallery in West Hollywood - Matthew Marks, LA - for her first one-person show in town. Long trip for a 13-foot-high rooster - blue, sure, but this one stands on its own circular pedestal, which is bright lime green. Fritsch loves using color - ultramarine blue, red, black.
FRITSCH: Adding the color gives a very emotional aspect. People are always attracted by color. Some of art historians would say that it's childish or something like that. I don't think so. I think that it's something which is existential - color, to have color.
STAMBERG: The rooster is made of polyester and steel, sprayed with blue acrylic paint - matte, no shine. And facing it, dwarfed - maybe roostered (ph) by it - stand two life-sized sculpted men.
They're blue, too.
FRITSCH: Yes. They are blue, too.
STAMBERG: Not because they're unhappy. They're just blue - tight pants, sturdy shoes, longish jackets to protect them from wind and rain and be stylish enough for a big city. Like Fritsch's beloved chickens, the men don't seem to care about the big rooster right in front of them.
FRITSCH: They are looking at their iPhones (laughter). They're looking at their beloved iPhones.
STAMBERG: Twenty-first-century men absorbed in their technology. I bet they took a photo of the rooster and are looking at it on their phones, not in real or sculpted life. What Katharina Fritsch has done with her perfect, smooth surfaces and dry humor is to take ordinary people with ordinary objects - things we know, familiar things - and turn them into art. The men, the rooster and the graceful gold-and-black star are at Matthew Marks LA until May 2. Alas, in these viral days, the gallery is closed. But you can see the sculptures on our thoroughly sanitized website.
I'm Susan Stamberg, NPR News.
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