Press Release of the Exhibition
May 5th > Jul 2nd 2011
“I am an artist. Artists are simple creatures. Give us something to draw with and some food, and we´re content. Or to paint or sculpt whatever. That´s all we need, really”. 1
Erwin Wurm’s Zeitgeist or Where do I fit in the grand scheme of things?
Zeitgeist is a German word meaning the spirit of the times, the spirit of the epoch or sign of the times, designating the ensemble of the intellectual and cultural climate of the world in a certain epoch, or the general characteristics of a determined time frame. Erwin Wurm (b.1954, Austria) refers to it frequently when speaking about his work, in a constant exploration of the relationship between Art and Philosophy that expresses itself in various forms within his work (such as in the Philosophers series, 2009). This allows him to speak of the absurdity of human condition within contemporaneity through humour and irony. The material is thus rendered with a psychological and emotional connotation expressing a certain state of affairs.
Idiots that we are (Idiot I, II and III series) in the times that we live in, and essentially absurd, it isn’t difficult for us to understand how we can use laughter as derision (as philosopher H. Bergson would have it); in sum, as a weapon for combat and denouncement. Wurm explores it, incessantly, through sculpture, gifting it with endless possibilities: by shaping, transforming and deforming.
In this sense, his work questions the notions of classical sculpting and its conventions, subverting it and creating odd still lifes of the quotidian and the banal. It appeals thusly to the capacity of questioning of the observer who feels at once bothered and attracted by the simultaneous strangeness and familiarity (Heimlich/ Unheimlich) of each situation that is created. For this reason, it is essential for the artist to resort to a shared database, from popular icons (Claudia Schiffer series, 2009) to consumer brands (Hermès series, 2008), the mores of the Middle East (Babylon series, 2010) and everyday items (chairs, detergents and toothbrushes, among others). In him, sculpting, much as life itself, is an ephemeral act that is captured only by photography, as a witness of the event.
Wurm’s work creates a psychology of our society, in that it establishes, by itself, strange relationships between people and the atmospheres they live in and the things they possess. A politically incorrect man (recalling one of his older series, Instructions on How to be Politically Incorrect, 2002/03), Wurm fulfils the role of one who is a marginal in the face of hypocrite normality (he often tells the story of his father, a police detective, who always saw artists as a type of criminals) and, through the use of consumables “of our times” expresses the spirit of now, within the frame of an attitude concerned with shape and content. In truth, much like all of us, Wurm’s work deals with the constant truth of the difficulty to manage life.
Here, laughter is serious business.
Carla de Utra Mendes
1 Wurm, Erwin, in Video Interview on Submarine Channel, recorded on 2007-09-06.
The work of Erwin Wurm is present in many prestigious collections, such as: Queensland Art Gallery, South Brisbane (Australia); MUMOK – Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, Vienna (Austria); Centre Pompidou Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris (France); Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Kunstmuseum Bonn, Bonn, Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main (Germany); National Museum of Art, Osaka (Japan); Kunsthaus Zurich, Zurich, Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, St. Gallen (Switzerland); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, The Judith Rothschild Foundation, New York (USA).
Press Release of the Exhibition
Jan 12th > Feb 24th 2007
For his first solo exhibition at the gallery, Erwin Wurm will be presenting a selection of recent sculptures that critique the formalist legacy of modernism together with a series of recent colour photographs documented in one of the artist’s latest catalogues, published on the occasion of the travelling exhibition ‘The artist who swallowed the world’.
Born in 1954 in Bruck an de Mur, Austria, Erwin Wurm possesses an extensive, multi-layered oeuvre that resists chronological intervention. The themes he explores are not adopted with the intention of resolve but rather one of provisional attention, insistent questioning and furthering, which often means that groups of work re-emerge, issues are re-launched from different prisms, questions converge or overlap. Despite the shifting, multimedial nature of his work, the crux of his ongoing enquiry is that of sculpture, what defines and constitutes it, much in the wake of the form and anti-form discussion of the mid-60s. To this effect, Wurm is consistently drawn to the issues of classical sculptural conventions and the rigidity of medium-specificity, which he undermines through his integration of found objects, his welcoming of mutation, deformation, failure and the every day, his appeal to audience participation and his inclusion of photography and video into this rich sphere of concerns.
In the case of this exhibition, Erwin Wurm will be showing two of his most recent sculptures, ‘The artist who swallowed the world’ and ‘The artist who swallowed the world when it was still a disc’. In the case of the two pieces, Wurm reemploys the theme of absurd over-indulgence, this time round, that of the insatiable, travelling, world-famous, self-important and self-absorbed artist who has swallowed the world in two distinct forms. For the obsessive artist, contentment does not come with artistic aspiration but global projection. Once that has been attained, the next step is ingestion, the mouthing of the planet as a final symbolic act of dominance. Left immobile and probably in need of something for the heartburn, this life-size sculpture is a self-critical caricature that presents the growing, self-absorbed artist as a menace to himself and the world. Both of these sculptures bespeak man’s blind faith in science. Wurm’s pieces hark back to the controversy in the Middle Ages when some argued that the world was flat and others that it was round. For Wurm, the world can have more than one reality.
Together with these two pieces, the artist will also be presenting several examples of his melting buildings. In the case of ‘Guggenheim Melting’, Wurm collapses the pure geometry of a model of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture by “melting it”. In doing so, he reassess the role of certain conditions in sculpture (and architecture), countering the classical pure, durable forms of modernism to include dissolve, softness and the force of gravity (through spreading) as added sculptural, hence architectural, values.
A photographic series with Eames and Prouvé designer furniture, together with other classical pieces, which now function as icons will also be on view in the gallery. In this series, Wurm explores the acts of crushing, squashing and squeezing of objects under these chairs and tables as a means of drawing the absurd (a site which has been excluded from the discourse of modernism) and the everyday into the haughty sphere of these designer pieces. In the case of ‘Venetian Baroque’, Wurm places a low-class food, the ham sandwich, peppered with thin slices of pickle, beneath the weight of the console table’s carved legs. In the aforementioned catalogue, he reveals that he was “thinking about food and the role of still life painting, especially [in] the Northern Renaissance and the Baroque” on realizing this piece. Erwin Wurm seeks to de-sanctify these objects by removing them from their place of reverence and ritual into the sphere of the everyday of use and play, searching a new life for them, a new attitude towards their existence in our society. ND
The artist will be present during the opening reception.