“Sculpting comes naturally to me, it is a second nature”. One could say that Louis Stettner always sculpted. His deep interest in the shape of things and more particularly that of the human figure is present in all his work. In 1948, thanks to the G.I. Bill, the American financing program to train former soldiers, he took lessons in Paris from the famous sculptor, Ossip Zadkine at his atelier in the 6th arrondissement. However, it is at the end of the 1960s, once installed in his own studio, that Stettner was able, in parallel to photography, to devote himself fully to the activity of sculpture which was so essential to him. Then, mother goddesses, totemic figures and dancing men came to spring from the folds and convolutions of earth and bronze, cheerfully playing on the edge of grotesque and sublime.
Color and painting enriched Louis Stettner’s creative works beginning at the end of the 1990s. It was around the same time that he began his color photographic work series taken in New York. He integrated heterogeneous sources of inspiration, boldly picking from the history of art from Breughel to Matisse, up to the primitive arts that he collected. Louis Stettner makes no hierarchy of genres. He prefered to capture the essence of the world around him, inviting the viewer to be fully aware of the present moment.
An inclination to draw first appeared in Louis Stettner’s earliest journals: linear shapes taking the form of faces began to appear in corners or margins of pages, eventually over time, a practice that transformed itself into an art form in its own right. As in his photographs, he liked close-up framing and chose the human figure as a main subject. In the drawings, characters are most often naked and seen from the front. The sinuous lines drawn in pencil or charcoal with a lively and assertive gesture are integrated, from 1990 on, in his photographic collages – in the spirit of the Cobra movement. At the end of his life, Louis Stettner practiced drawing more and more, tirelessly seeking to capture what is universal in us as an inexhaustible flow of vital energy.