*1959 in Münster – lives in Düsseldorf
The sculptor Pia Stadtbäumer’s figurative polychrome sculptures and installations fluctuate between naturalism and artificiality, humour and sincerity, kitsch and grace. The artist questions patterns of perception and combines what is known with the unexpected and surprising. Born in 1959 in Münster, Stadtbäumer was a student at the Düsseldorf Academy of Fine Arts (1981–1988) and a master student of Alfonso Hüppi. Even as a student, her expansive sculptures displayed a focus on figuration. After graduating, she gained a scholarship from the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, followed by successive grants.
From the very beginning, Stadtbäumer experimented in her work with various materials, including plaster, lead, paper, felt, lint, and wax, and examined the relationship between figure and space. Soon enough – initially in a very subtle way – she started to create unrealistic situations by placing the sculptures on walls or ceilings, seemingly breaking the laws of gravity. As a result, our expectations and everyday patterns of perception are put to the test and disrupted. Later in her career, the irritation became even more distinct, as the artist began to deviate from a naturalistic representation even in the depiction of human beings. She started to create hermaphrodites, peculiar children that resemble adults, or fragmented bodies with distorted proportions. She mixed the familiar and the unknown, causing feelings of unease. Figures are first formed using clay, then a negative mould is made of plaster and silicone and a cast is produced – usually of dyed wax and synthetic ceramics. Sometimes Stadtbäumer adds other materials and props. For several years, the artist created figures of children and angels.
Another large group of Stadtbäumer’s works formed in a polymeric cast with an exquisite attention to detail and references to her idols from art history – she reproduced figures depicted in paintings and transferred them into her sculptural works. In her later sculptures, she reached for the visual language of Rococo paintings (without any reference to specific role models) known from the works of Watteau, Boucher, and Fragonard. From 1996 to 1997, Stadtbäumer was a guest lecturer at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. Since 1999, she has been a professor at the University of Fine Arts of Hamburg. Her works were presented at individual exhibitions at Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (1998), the Sprengel Museum in Hanover (1999), the Bonn Museum of Modern Art (2000), and Kunstverein Ulm (2001).