Shape of the Ape
The exhibition features a singular installation, shown for the first time, consisting of over 30 figurines culled from E-bay, perched atop fragile glass pedestals. The figurines are all versions of the same sculpture: an ape sitting on a stack of books pondering a human skull. And at the center is a large, cast iron version of this well-known statuette - but its body is fragmented, or broken with its head and arms scattered on the floor.
The figurine was originally created by a German artist in the late nineteenth century, and its subsequent appearance in various and bizarre scenarios intertwines capitalism, communism and fascism. A copy of the figurine was given to Lenin by an American businessman who hoped to do business with the Russian government. Although the entrepreneurial overture was rebuffed, Lenin nonetheless kept the figurine and displayed it prominently on his desk. And later after World War II a Nazi plane that had been shot down and sunk in an Austrian lake, and rumored to be loaded with gold and secret documents, was found instead to contain one of these same figurines.
The statuettes refer to the dialectic of what separates man and ape, or nature vs. culture, and the sheer number of the figures in the show call into question issues, not of original vs. copy, but of repetition and difference. And the fragmented ape at the core of the show deconstructs the hierarchy of man and animal - the human skull could replace the apes - and vice-versa.
Klaus Weber has shown extensively in both Europe and the United Sates. He recently had a solo show at Herald St. and the Hayward Gallery in London, as well as the Kunstverein in Hamburg and will have a solo exhibit at the Secession in Vienna in 2008. He has participated in group shows such as Ecstasy: In and about Altered States, The Geffen Contemporary Art MOCA, Los Angeles and at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin.
The artist and Andrew Kreps Galllery would like to thank Mr. Axel Schmetzke, who kindly loaned his collection of figurines for the duration of the show.