1. Untouchables

    Working in bronze, one of the oldest sculptural media, Peter Simon Mühlhäußer has created Girls: a contemporary series of female figures that explores sexuality, ethnicity, identity, male gaze and voyeurism. These six, exquisitely rendered, nearly-life sized figures are so unapologetically--even brashly--charged with provocative possibilities, that their presence becomes an unavoidable confrontation with multiple disquieting readings, and ultimately with ourselves.

    Mühlhäußer’s is a specific and dangerous art. The sculptures’ lushness is visually aggressive, their existence an accusation. Abigail, an African-American girl with hypnotically intricate hair, juts her chest and jaw out at us, perched upon a pile of coal bricks. Theresa is enigmatically suspended from cords, exhibiting a bizarre combination of references both to classical sculpture and sexual bondage. These sculptures are not passively aware of their viewers; they engage with them unflinchingly. Nor do they allow us a static involvement: we are compelled to move around them to fully appreciate their ample details, elegant passages of hair and skin folds, and the endless sculptural landscapes that comprise each body.

    Mühlhäußer’s creating such explicit figuration, exercising virtuosity in a world that often considers it irrelevant, choosing controversial subjects and imagery, and treating the completed bronzes with unorthodox finishes are all variables whose downsides could result in harsh failure. It would be easy to understate the risks involved by combining this many uncertainties; consequently, it is impossible to overstate the achievement in pulling it off.

    Not the least of these factors is the self-imposed method by which Mühlhäußer sculpts his figures: by hand, almost exclusively out of his head, modeling and posing them in actual size without the use of a maquette. This is a highly idiosyncratic and difficult method by which to realize a sculpture that approximates a credible human being. The refuge of the lesser-skilled is to utilize body casts or digitally scan figures and mechanically realize a form. Making a realistic figure with his own hands immediately sifts Mühlhäußer into a much smaller pool of artists, which shrinks even further if we exclude those who rely on photographs and models.

    The Girls, and their creator Peter Simon Mühlhäußer, will undoubtedly come under considerable and warranted scrutiny. Viewers will have to decide for themselves: is this merely a cynical effort to shock or dazzle us with a beguiling surface that remains as conceptually vacant as the hollow bronze from which it’s made? Or is the void of easily grasped meaning a chamber within which our own projections echo? Any discomfort that provokes the need to analyze the work or artist is also a call to examine the roots of such unease. “Rather than dictate a narrative, these complicated objects present choices,” notes sculptor Mark Mennin in his introduction to Mühlhäußer’s 2012 catalog.

    In that same catalog, the artist includes a cherished quote from Gustav Mahler: “Tradition is the passing on of the fire, not the worship of the ashes.” Like Mahler, Mühlhäußer carries that fire forward, but also plays with it at risk of being burned. In creating the Girls, he has exploited one of figuration’s greatest assets--accessibility--to disarm and even mesmerize us while he flirts with figuration’s greatest weaknesses--kitsch and pornography.

    Stephen Shaheen
    New York, 2013

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  2. New York Academy of Art alumni and 2010 Fellow Peter Simon Mühlhäußer shares his story. We visited his studio in Bushwick/Queens NY, and talked to him about life as a sculptor.

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  3. Boys explores the relationship between environment and the development of young individuals within a specific societal context. Employing stereotypical poses related to religion, culture, and social development, the whole series assumes an exaggerated and ironic character. One culture's physicality cross references another's societal failure, and familiar conventions of pose and gesture are recognizable, yet challenged by each subject's cultural physique. History and the contemporary collide. What is usually predictable is presented here in a revolving manner, defying any categorical imposition.Although each of the six boys bears his own cultural trappings, an essential physicality unites them. In the drama of their incipient motion, they appear as toys frozen in action. However the juvenile imagination they evoke reminds us of their vulnerability. Their flesh looks plush and sensitive, their nudity triggering a desire to clothe them. Ironically, in the midst of this youthful playground there are no smiles or signs of laughter. The boys appear possessed, almost by some sort of “wind-up” mechanism set at the controlled speed of an operator. They are not autonomous beings but actors, and impart the uneasy sense of having been programmed or invaded.These alien boys glitter with paradoxes, beginning with the suppleness of warm flesh rendered in cold aluminum. They are innocent yet threatening, at an age of purity yet absolutely corrupt. Although fashioned with delicacy, they are hard-nosed, brawny, and demanding of attention with their hypnotic physiques. At the very core of this series is a provocative realism. This does not serve as a visual handout, but rather as an extra layer for viewers willing to take the time to read each sculpture. These boys represent the potential future of the world, as well as the possible weapons of its destruction

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Peter Simon Mühlhäußer - Artist

Peter Simon Mühlhäußer

Peter Simon Mühlhäußer was born October 18th, 1982. He currently lives and works in both Brooklyn, New York and Bad Boll, Germany in the Region of Stuttgart.

In 2009 Mühlhäußer received his MFA from the New York Academy of Art. He earned two significant…

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Peter Simon Mühlhäußer was born October 18th, 1982. He currently lives and works in both Brooklyn, New York and Bad Boll, Germany in the Region of Stuttgart.

In 2009 Mühlhäußer received his MFA from the New York Academy of Art. He earned two significant awards and graduated with the honor of Cum Laude. The awards included the Walter Erlbacher Award, complimenting his understanding and execution of anatomy, and the 2009/10 Fellowship Award, offering him a 1-year extended study and exhibition at the New York Academy of Art.

Mühlhäußer recieved the Charlatan Ink Prize 2011.

He is represented by
532 Gallery in Chelsea New York,
Galleria Accesso in Pietrasanta Italy
and Janine Bean Gallery Berlin.

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