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IMMA reinstates a modern Irish master with ‘Gerda Frömel: A Retrospective’
Open to the public 10 April – 5 July 2015
The first posthumous retrospective of the work of Gerda Frömel opens at IMMA, The Irish Museum of Modern Art, on Thursday 9 April 2015. Born in Czechoslovakia in 1931 to a family of German descent, Frömel moved to Ireland in 1956 and lived here for the remainder of her life. A very well-regarded artist in her lifetime, she exhibited to great critical acclaim, but following her untimely death in 1975 her work was neglected and rarely seen. This exhibition of some 100 sculptures, drawings, photographs and archive material brings her work back into critical consideration and reinstates Frömel as a master of modern Irish art.
Following her art education in Germany in the 1950s Frömel moved permanently to Ireland in 1955 with her new husband the sculptor Werner Schürmann, whom she had met at art school in Munich. On their arrival in Ireland Schürmann established one of the only foundries in the country, and began to cast their works in bronze.
Frömel participated in the ‘Irish Exhibition of Living Art’annuallyfrom 1956, aligning herself with the most innovative and vital artists in Ireland at the time. Brian Fallon, in The Irish Times commented in 1969: ‘The small sculpture section on the whole is high in quality. Gerda Frömel is outstanding’. Initially working in small scale these early works were cast in bronze and figurative in style. Even in this early stage of her career Frömel received significant commissions from Bord Fáilte (1960) and the Arts Council (1962), and an award from Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (1962).
Throughout the 1960s Frömel created works with real-life observations of life and nature. Her preference was for an uneven surface and works that appear highly finished from a distance, on closer inspection reveal deliberate machining marks and chips. In the late 1960s Frömel made a transition from cast bronze sculptures to works carved in marble, granite, and her favourite material – alabaster. She made use of simple forms: circles, lines and spirals to communicate her observations from nature, natural phenomena and the celestial, in particular, the moon and its reflection were denoted with the simplest of visual codes.
By the late 1960s Frömel was working in a much larger scale and in 1967 she commenced Sails, her most important commission to date, and the most ambitious public sculpture of its time in Ireland. It was made for Carroll’s Factory in Dundalk, Co Louth (now Dundalk Institute of Technology), a building designed by Scott Tallon Walker along lines set down by the architect Mies van der Rohe. The original idea was to commission a major sculpture from Henry Moore or Alexander Calder but the client insisted that an Irish artist be commissioned. Frömel met with Ronald Tallon and proposed a mobile depicting sails for the site. The final stainless steel sculpture comprises three elements that resemble aircraft wings and proved Frömel’s capacity to work on a monumental scale. It became emblematic of the building and can still be seen today.
In August 1975 the life of this extraordinary woman and talented artist was cut short when she died in a drowning accident. Among the artistic community the news of her untimely death at the age of 44 was greeted with shock. At the‘Irish Exhibition of Living Art’ that year a special display was made of her work and the catalogue included a tribute to her. A year later a substantial retrospective of Frömel’s work was held at the Municipal Gallery, but her work has rarely been seen since, despite being championed by writers such as Dorothy Walker.
Fortunately Frömel’s work remains in key Irish National and Corporate Collections, while IMMA has the most substantial holding of her work in a public collection, thanks in large part to works donated by the Carroll’s and Bank of Ireland Collections. IMMA has included the artist in landmark exhibitions such as ‘The Moderns’ (2010–11) ensuring that her work continues to be considered within the canon of Irish and international modernism.
The works in this retrospective exhibition at IMMA date from 1955 to 1975 and are grouped around partial reconstructions of her solo exhibitions, as well as thematic presentations of concerns in her work such as the body, portraits, architecture and abstraction.
‘Gerda Frömel, A retrospective’continues until 5 July 2015, Admission is free.
The exhibition at IMMA is curated by Seán Kissane. In August 2015 the exhibition will travel to the F.E. McWilliam Gallery and Studios, Co. Down in August 2015 where it is curated by Riann Coulter. Details of associated events are on the IMMA website
Irish Museum of Modern Art
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