Public art is a wonderful way to help passersby engage with their environment. It adds a layer of interest and whimsy to busy public spaces, and it can also be a functional part of people's daily lives. Such is the case with a work of art by German sculptor and draftsperson Karl-Henning Seemann. The piece, which portrays a group of life-sized figures struggling to pull stubborn animals up a mountain on ropes, also serves as a handrail up a steep set of stairs.
Part of the sculpture extends from the base of the stairs to halfway up them. It features a bronze rope connecting a balking horse, with its hooves firmly planted and tail outstretched, and the woman straining at the other end. The second portion, which reaches the top of the stairs, displays even more drama; three men struggle to pull a goat up the “mountain,” with one of them having fallen forward and another trying to catch him.
Seemann is known for his life-sized, dynamic sculptures. “I'm always concerned with the question of how I can translate movement, the fourth dimension of time, ” his website says, “into the art of sculpture that is bound by gravity, without the sculpture becoming frozen into a pose.”
This figurative piece, which was installed in 1981 and remains untitled, is located in the German district of Schwäbisch Hall, outside the city's district administration office (Landratsamt.) The stairs themselves are locally known as the Kleine Treppe (small stairs), compared to the Große Treppe (large stairs), which are the stairs in front of the church at the city's marketplace. Both sets of stairs are used seasonally as a stage for an open-air theater, with the small stairs being used for children's theater.
It's fitting, as Seemann's incredibly animated sculptures feel like a sort of performance themselves. They are as magnetic and stirring as they are solid and immobile. “My work is always about the whole,” he explains, “about the synthesis of opposites: dynamics and statics in volume and space, rhythm of form in the long-distance and close-up effect, freedom of art in the connection to a task—the stronger the one, the bigger the other.”
You can explore an extensive gallery of Keemann's work, ranging from bronze sculptures to pencil portraits, on his website.