Artists: Tom Claassen
Kunsthal KAdE will show the first major retrospective of sculptor Tom Claassen from May 15 to August 29. A wide selection from his oeuvre will be on display in and around the kunsthal, including sculptures from public spaces - such as the sculpture of a horse that stands on the square De Plantage in Utrecht and an enormous stylized rat, Brigid, which is normally in the Kröller-Müller Museum - as well as loans from museums and private collections. Two old installations will be re-executed and two large new works will be built on site. Around them will be a series of small sculptures and as complete a survey as possible of models for outdoor sculptures.
Tom Claassen is among the most visible artists in the Netherlands, while his name is virtually unknown outside the art world. Thousands drive past his five giant elephant sculptures at a traffic intersection just outside Almere every day. At Schiphol Airport, large numbers of passengers pass his "Snowmen" at the entrance to Pier D every year. Next to the Kunsthal in Rotterdam, his rabbits linger in the grass. In Hoofddorp, a seven-meter tall figure stands in front of the town hall. From Breda to Ypenburg, from Almelo to Vijfhuizen, from IJburg to Utrecht; Tom Claassen's sculpture can be found in public spaces everywhere.
Those who see Claassen's sculptures will not soon forget them. The work sticks as a memory because his sculptures are highly associative. Claassen abstracts the motifs he chooses, but also stays close enough to reality to keep them directly identifiable. His oeuvre hole both about stylized animals with a high "cuddliness factor," and about crashed cars, a carpet, a worm field and scaffolding and ladders. Always searching for the essence of a form, Claassen plays with classical sculptural points of departure such as volume, abstraction, proportion and proportions.
Tom Claassen uses a range of techniques to achieve his goals. Some traditional - casting a bronze sculpture via a mold - others unorthodox. For "Brigid" - a huge stylized rat - the artist had four cubic meters of sand laid down in his studio to "sandbox" the shape in two parts, as he calls it himself. Then the 'pits' were smeared with latex rubber. Finally, the solidified rubber parts were sewn together with coarse stitches. Through this process, sand inevitably stuck to the rubber, giving the rat's 'skin' a beautiful texture.
Reduction is the magic word for sculptor Tom Claassen. He deletes from the form until the pure essence remains; an essence that both preserves the archetypal appearance of the object to be represented and links an emotional experience to it. The work is earthy and down-to-earth. Many of the animals Claassen depicts - a favorite theme - look rather ungainly. They are just a bit more substantial than the animals in real life, but that "exaggeration" is functional and never becomes pathetic.
The work is monumental and voluminous - solid and robust - but at times deliberately fragmentary. With his interpretations of familiar forms, Tom Claassen drives a whole arsenal of narratives. He appeals to that familiar - universal and timeless - but also provides a completely new experience.
All of Tom Claassen's projects in public areas in the Netherlands are brought together in the sculpture guide produced on the occasion of the exhibition. Click here for the digital version of the pictorial guide.
Tom Claassen (Heerlen, October 4, 1964) lives and works alternately in the Netherlands and Denmark. Claassen has received several awards, including the Aanmoedigingsprijs Stad Amsterdam (1993) and the Charlotte Köhler Prijs (1994). In 1992 he was selected for the Prix de Rome (sculpture/sculpture and publicity).