This article was originally written by Rebekah Drysdale on April 30, 2008.
Munich-based artist Tom Schmelzer describes himself as a concept artist who uses brilliant aesthetics in his illusionary sculptures and moving objects to “make a point” to the viewer. After being drawn in by the theatricality of the object presented, the viewer soon discovers a message. These messages concern social and cultural issues such as in Show Off, an enormous engagement ring followed by a woman. In this piece, composed of silicone, silicone paint, polyurethane, 925 silver, diamond, french nails, and metal, Schmelzer addresses the cultural expectations surrounding success and its manifestations. For example, men are expected to make more money than their fathers and to purchase engagement rings for their fiancees worth approximately three month’s salary.
In a 2006 installation, Schmelzer took on the expectations of the United Nations, who at a 2005 summit declared that individual states were responsible for protecting their people from crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and the like. If a state is unable to do so, the international community should step in. In Responsibility to Protect or To Whom It May Concern, Schmelzer asserts that collective action is only taken when whites are involved, when Christians are involved, when petroleum is involved, or when natural gas is involved. The installation consists of a white oil drum with Jesus figures encircling the rim of the drum, which contains petroleum and a pump to create gas bubbles. A literal but quite successful way to “make a point”. Schmelzer’s seductive sculptures immediately capture our attention, a task that is becoming increasingly difficult in the 21st century. He does this by moving past the aesthetic neutrality of previous conceptual art and reinforcing his appealing objects with sound conceptual statements.
Jozsa Gallery in Brussels is currently featuring Schmelzer’s work in their exhibition Let’s Call it A Year until May 10th. The artist has previously shown at the Riviera Gallery in New York, White Trash Contemporary in Hamburg, and Galerie Jaspers in Munich.