Studio Visit: Jan Abt, Abstract Figurative artist
I went to visit the studio of young German artist, Jan Abt who hailed all the way from Duisburg to establish himself in the New York art world only three years ago–no small feat in today’s highly competitive environment. I was immediately struck by his unique approach to figuration in his sculptures that was evolving before my eyes. On one side of the room were his earlier Giacometti-inspired convex or compressed males figures with gaunt faces and stick like bodies and on the other were an entirely opposite body of work. Standing in the middle of the room stood three voluptuous mannerist female nudes ladden with tumescent bulges with zany expressions in their eyes (one even lacked hair) that reminded me of John Currin’s anatomically impossible painted figures sans the dark side. Like Canova’s Three Graces they lent the room beauty, charm and joy (in a contemporary sense) and represented a clear departure from the artist’s past.
Jan Abt’s aim is to engage the viewer by creating a sense of empathy with the object which he says is created through his personal relationship with each work. His autonomous process involves a series of spontaneous changes and reworkings where he may not know whether the figure will end up being male or female. He describes his work as more of “an unconscious response to the immediate experience of working from life then pushing any one idea deliberately.” Abandoning all control of the object and process then the viewer is left to complete the story.
Indeed, Abt’s life-size nude figures, when experienced in person are evocative and fresh upon first encounter. Although his work is steeped in art history with strong affiliations to Aristide Maillol, Pablo Picasso, Rene Mattisse, and Alberto Giacometti they are also witty and easy to relate to. One can see that he is rapidly moving away from his Modernist beginnings to a more radical approach to making contemporary sculpture.
Jan Abt received a Masters of Fine Arts from The New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture and lives in Manhattan.
To see more images of Jan Abt’s art visit his website