James Cicatko: Conversations with Messerschmidt
March 3 – April 1
Exhibition opening: Thursday, March 3rd 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Gallery4Culture welcomes Seattle painter James Cicatko and his solo exhibit Conversations with Messerschmidt. The gallery will host 6 large-scale graphite drawings from Cicatko’s ambitious series focused on the Character Heads of the obscure but fascinating 18th century sculptor Franz Messerschmidt.
Messerschmidt, a child prodigy, reached the zenith of his artistic career in 1769 in the Habsburg capitol of Vienna. His rise to fame was followed by a precipitous and tragic decline due to the onset of mental illness. Passed over for a prestigious academic position at the Vienna Royal Academy, he retired into seclusion on an invalid’s pension, whereupon he produced his remarkable Character Heads, a series of magnificently sculpted busts rife with human emotion. Franz Messerschmidt died in obscurity in 1783.
Cicatko states, “There is so much to Franz Messerschmidt of interest, some examples being the dramatic, if not tragic, trajectory of his life and career; his mental illness and ensuing paranoia, however diagnosed; his connection to the “spiritual healer” Franz Anton Mesmer; his obsession with “proportion”, manifesting itself in a fascination with the Egyptian god of proportion Thoth, or Thot, the moon god, and his struggle with this god, resulting in the hallucinatory “Beakheads”. And then there is his fanatical accomplishment of the Character Heads, a body of work over 200 years old, but, to me, nonetheless of this time.”
Masterfully rendered, James Cicatko’s drawings recontextualize Messerschmidt’s Character Heads by imposing them on separate bodies and situating them within narratives such as a World War I battlefield, an architectural environment taken from the Hall of Mirrors, and a back yard barbecue in present day/future Armageddon America. As a body of work Cicatko’s Conversations with Messerschmidt presents a world coming undone and, as in Messerschmidt’s Character Heads, suggests unhinging on a psychic level as well. Cicatko’s exhibition presents an extraordinary homage to Franz Messerschmidt’s tumultuous life and powerful work.
top image: © James Cicatko, Locked Inside, Graphite on paper, 73″ x 49″, 2011 Photo by Richard Nicol