Peter Wächtler’s Empathy for Simplicity


Cat, 2016
Bronze 12 x 14 1/2 in. (30. 5 x 37 cm.) Ed. 3/7 + 1 AP

Peter Wächtler’s practice oscillates between the prosaic and the outlandish. The artist’s fascination with pop culture is grounded in his attention to the frailty of everyday life. His works are neither ironic nor sentimental: though composed of familiar elements and executed in earnest, they acknowledge a limit to their ability to communicate, often to comedic effect.

Wächtler is a prodigious writer, and these texts inform the rest of his practice, which also includes drawings, sculptures, and film. The tales he spins—whether embodied in an object or relayed in prose or moving image—feature protagonists mired in various degrees of disquiet, melancholy, and ineptitude. Repetition is a key element, representing ongoing attempts by the characters, narrator, or even the artist himself to overcome the gap between intention and affect. The sympathy of the artist for his subjects and their travails is underscored by a homespun, heartfelt aesthetic.

Adrastus Collection’s most recent acquisition, Cat (2016) is part of a new body of work by Peter Wächtler, commissioned by the Renaissance Society and largely produced during his stay in Chicago in January 2016. This is the German artist’s first solo museum exhibition in the United States.

Wächtler’s artwork foregrounds different narrative techniques and traditions as means of rationalizing one’s place in the world, of grappling with and giving meaning to one’s existence. In the case of Cat (2016), the work is conceived in relation to empathy: a bronze relief showing a cat sitting on the fence, with a boot and can being thrown at it can generate sensitivity and compassion on the spectator. Through the use of animals and pets, Wächtler considers that an artwork can be more accessible and can evoke empathy. “If you take it seriously, it’s horrible,” Wächtler said.

Wächtler notes that people can “make things complicated” by being so “deeply involved in hiding the meaning behind the artwork.” Speaking about his own art, he says that he tries to make it very simple although it isn’t, somehow,” even though he uses simple familiar situations, personages –animals- and objects. [1]

adrastus collection-peter wachtler-cat

Cat (2016) in Peter Wächtler’s Secrets of a Trumpet exhibition at the Renaissance Society.

Peter Wächtler (1979, Hanover, Germany) lives and works in Brussels. He has recently had solo exhibitions at Reena Spaulings, New York (2014), Westfälischer Kunstverein, Münster (2014), and dépendance, Brussels (2013). His work has been featured in numerous international group exhibitions, including 2015 Triennial: Surround Audience at the New Museum, New York (2015), the Liverpool Biennial (2014), La Biennale de Lyon 2013, and Pride Goes Before a Fall – Beware of a Holy Whore at Artists Space, New York (2013).

[1]Huang, May. “Renaissance Society Exhibit Trumpets Works by Wächtler.” The Chicago Maroon. N.p., 22 Feb. 2016. Web. 27 July 2016.