German artist Michael Sailstorfer’s We Love Them All tackles formalist concerns via amorphous ceramic masks in earthen hues mottled with glaze drips and marbling. A continuation of his 2015 series, the primitive and reductionist stylization nods towards Oceanic and African art and its symbolism. Facial recognition is relegated to slits to recall mouths, vague surface manipulations indicate eyes, and pointed protrusions suggest noses. Though an homage to art history, nature and material integrity, the masks embody an underlying conflict: a play against technologies for the future’s upper hand.
Sailstorfer presents a type of ceramic portraiture with human materials, but in lieu of organic matter, We Love Them All employs contemporary modes of sustainability and production: technology and architecture. By rendering the sculptures equally readable as futurist robotic interpretations or the post-apocalyptic, the effigies exist in perpetuity, yet still hint at the systematic reduction of anthropological traces as the distance from the human behind the mask grows. Gone are the fleshy contours of the face, replaced with man-made representations created by the mixed-bag influences of paradigm shifts, begging the question of whether the masks are an exorcism of the past as humanism is erased in favour of the humanoid.
Dangled before us is the dilemma of how the future can negotiate the balance of artifice and nature when their coexistence is marked by a one-sided advantage. Sailstorfer’s We Love Them All asserts the formal and conceptual ambiguities – and fragility – that ensues from the process of nature, history and their methods being restored, reconstructed and reproduced. However, high above the encircling masks is Solar Cat – an omniscient, meditative grey feline sculpture gazing towards and absorbing the neon ceiling light – which could illuminate us, if it would pull itself away. Perhaps the fact that it does not, preferring to continue basking in the metaphysical glow of artificial sunlight, is the only answer we need.
-Katrina Kufer, December 2017