Welcome to the next level of the artworld. We are in the age of the mega-museum scaled contemporary artist show. The Swiss artist Urs Fischer’s super spectacle art show will take over the entire 65,000 square feet of MoCA Los Angeles’ two contemporary art venues in downtown Los Angeles in April 2013. Today it is not unusual for an artist to receive a $50,000 grant just to produce works for a major upcoming show. Yet this significant money is dwarfed by the multi-million dollar production budgets for artists around the world. In the past few years there have been calls from the highest chairs of the critical agents of the artworld for more personal works to come to the forefront. In the past year there has been an attack on collectors who are creating the system of demands for what seems to be an impossible degree of artistic production, which some believe is responsible for causing the death of more than one international art star. In the Urs Fischer show, MoCA Los Angeles will be presenting works of the kind that I call “dream art.” My reasoning for calling it this type of work is that so much of it is emerges from the world of the fantastic imagination, and all of it made possible and fully realized by the artist who can both imagine the project and realize every element of it, despite its obvious phenomenal costs. Interesting enough, despite MoCA having had to put on hold the Damien Hirst retrospective from the Tate Modern, it has already added to its exhibition lineup the Jeff Koons retrospective for 2014. In that same year the Broad museum will open across from MoCA. In that same year the Mike Kelley retrospective will open from Amsterdam. This will be of great interest to me personally as I was one of Mike Kelley’s graduate students at Art Center in Pasadena in the mid-1990’s. Below I have selected a small number of works which I feel most well represent the startling psychologically penetrating and mind bending works by Urs Fisher. Below that are images from various publications and excerpts of related texts.
I’d like to start with these two quotes about the imaged state of the art world on high, with quotes by Richard Flood and Roberta Smith, that reflect upon the enormous sums of money in the market and how they have impacted what is seen in the world’s leading contemporary art area’s today. Several artists I know in Los Angeles talk about the problems of feeling that they need to take over the entire space by making massive statement sized installations, yet are possible with the budgets they have to make their work.
Yet contrast this with the presentations of works at the 300,000 square foot DIA Beacon exhibition space, where entire football field sized rooms make be inhabited by but a handful of majestic works.
“A week ago, during a series of talks in Toronto focusing on the current financial crisis and how it affects art, the New Museum’s Richard Flood told the audience that the days of artistic mega-projects were over.”
“Finally, the show is the latest example of the alchemical fusion of money and scale so prevalent in today’s art world. In other words, if you can afford to build it bigger, they will definitely show up, if only to see the bigness — and the big things in it — for themselves. Art and money are always connected, as they almost inevitably have to be. But lately the money side of the equation, underscored by scale, has become overbearing.
More and more when we look at art, what we’re looking at is money: art that is big and expensive to fabricate or transport in spaces that are expensive to build and maintain; art that is public and spectacular rather than private and intimate; art that most people could never live with, even if they could afford it, arrayed in spaces they would never live in. It is the Grand Canyon approach to art making and showing, deeply depersonalizing.” Roberta Smith. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/08/arts/design/dieter-roth-bjorn-roth-at-hauser-wirth.html?ref=design
Clearly the days of the mega project are not over, as they have been matched by the recent rise of the mega-commercial gallery space, some as large as 60,000 square feet. There seems to be tiers of these spaces, first being the 6,000 and 9,000 square feet spaces, then the 15,000, 20,000 and 25,000 square foot spaces, then the impossible 50,000 and 60,000 square foot spaces that are virtual museums, kunsthalles and commercial galleries all in one.
Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer in Los Angeles
urs fischer – wax, beds and problem paintings
cast aluminum, concrete, aluminum, epoxy, fiberglass, wire mesh, epoxy primer, polyester filler, one-component acrylic putty, urethane primer, polyester paint, acrylic polyurethane matte clearcoat
‘beds’ and ‘problem paintings’
Vincent Johnson in Los Angeles
THE MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART, LOS ANGELES PRESENTS URS FISCHER
THE MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART, LOS ANGELES, PRESENTS
April 21, 2013–August 19, 2013
MOCA Grand Avenue
& The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
About the Artist
Urs Fischer was born in 1973 in Zurich, Switzerland. Fischer studied photography at the Schule für Gestaltung, Zurich; visited de Ateliers, Amsterdam, ; was an artist in residence at Delfina Studio Trust; and has lived and worked in Zurich, London, Los Angeles, and New York. Fischer produces work in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, and has been exhibiting since 1995.
On view in the 2011 Venice Biennale [Photo by Stefan Altenburger]
(L) untitled, 2011
paraffin wax mixture, pigment, steel, wicks
paraffin wax mixture, pigment, steel, wicks
images © fulvio orsenigo
images © stefan altenburger
‘problem paintings’, 2012
milled aluminum panel, acrylic primer, gesso, acrylic ink, spray enamel, acrylic silkscreen medium, and acrylic paint
In late 2007, Swiss-born artist Urs Fischer took a jackhammer to Gavin Brown’s pristine white West Village floors.
Urs Fischer with a work in progress at his studio in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Studio Visit: Urs Fischer
A studio visit with the artist.
The sign over the door to artist Urs Fischer’s studio in Red Hook, Brooklyn, reads: IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A PLAN FOR YOUR LIFE, SOMEONE ELSE WILL. Clearly, Fischer has nothing but plans. Step inside the vast 12,000-square-foot space teeming with assistants and you’ll spy bronze sculptures waiting to be photographed, a bed sculpture buckling under the weight of poured concrete, and huge paintings drawn from vintage Hollywood headshots.
Urs Fischer Hits the Beach
Urs Fischer, courtesy of Gagosian GalleryWorks of art from Urs Fischer’s show “Tables, Heads and Arms.”
- The artist Urs Fischer in his studio. Angela Kunicky, courtesy the artist and Gagosian Gallery
- Urs Fischer, “Problem Painting,” 2011. Mats Nordman, courtesy of the artist and Gagosian Gallery
- Urs Fischer, “Untitled (Soft Bed),” 2011. Mats Nordman, courtesy of the artist and Gagosian Gallery
The artist Urs Fischer casts a continual spell, working all manner of materials into forms that allure the senses, the mind and of course, the collectors.
Urs Fischer, the reluctant interviewer
The Art Newspaper London
On the eve of his Palazzo Grassi retrospective, the artist talks about how journalists have misinterpreted his work
By Jonathan Griffin. Features, Issue 234, April 2012
Published online: 12 April 2012
Fischer achieved success early in his career, and despite leaving his native Switzerland for New York, his work is still most often compared to that of European artists such as Fischli and Weiss, Franz West, Dieter Roth and Georg Herold.
Despite his sculptural sensibility, Fischer trained as a photographer. Many of his works approach issues of mimesis and the limits of representation, such as his ongoing series of mirror boxes, onto which he prints high-resolution photographs of objects. Partial to grand gestures, he excavated the floor of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York, in 2007, leaving a gaping hole that he titled You.
This month, Fischer becomes the first artist to receive a solo retrospective at François Pinault’s Palazzo Grassi, in Venice (see p87).
Is that related to the centrality of scale in your work?
No. I’ve made large-scale works since 1993. It has more to do with your mind and the radius of your action. Things that have to do with space have to do with space; things that have to do with what’s in front of you, which is the radius of your shoulder and arm when you sit, are small. Then you can stand up and do this kind of thing [reaches out] so there’s a more human-sized, direct thing. And that’s what art is. To dig any deeper as to why someone uses big or small things, it doesn’t matter, because ultimately everything can be equally efficient in your mind. The physical size of the work doesn’t make it big or small. A good example is Maurizio Cattelan’s sculpture of Hitler [Him, 2001], in a big room. Is it big or small? For me it’s big, because it’s not about the work, it’s about the space around it that makes the work. So it’s a very, very large work.
So why do so many of your works enlarge found objects?
I like it. Artists just make art. There’s nothing special to it. That’s the art I do. I want to do this. You can dissect everything in every possible way, and the next day you can dissect it in any other different way. It’s not like a car you can take apart. Partially, yes, but even your interest in dissecting art changes every year according to your mood, according to culture. What we do as artists is not to dissect; we do the assembling. So I just think: “I make this; that’s what I do.” I don’t have to justify anything to anybody because when you do that, when you want those kinds of answers as somebody looking at art, you don’t get shit out of it. You don’t enjoy the stuff you see. The advantage of art is that it just does what it does. You look at this lemon, it’s a lemon, that’s it. There’s nothing more to it.
Your series of mirror boxes, in which photographs of an object from different angles are printed directly onto mirrored aluminium, seem to relate to 3D scanning processes.
You know what this is? You guys get it wrong. Have you ever carved something? In old-school carving, you have a view on each side of a block and you cut that out, and it basically makes the shape. This is what this is. It’s just a minimal way of having a space that something occupies in the room without having it there. But it makes the space it occupies much more aggressive than with the real thing. I don’t know if it’s technical or not. Do you care if your fridge has a microchip in it or not? Not really.
Good Boy: Urs Fischer at The New Museum
Service à la françiase, silkscreen on mirrored chrome steel, 2009, (Left), Noisette, mixed mediums, 2009, (Right).
All images used courtesy of The New Museum.
Urs Fischer’s recent exhibition at the New Museum, called Urs Fischer: Marguerite de Ponte, was an especially large undertaking by the museum and marks the first instance in its history that one artist was given the entire exhibition space. This gesture from the museum, along with the presumed complicity from museum trustee and Fischer collector Dakis Joannou, raised eddies of complaint among art world insiders. Numerous reviews, including Roberta Smith’s in the New York Times, also noted the fact that exhibition curator Massimiliano Gioni did not try to create a unified exhibition spread over three floors, but instead stacked what appeared to be three separate project room shows on top of each other.
Last Call, Lasceaux, wallpaper, 2009
It’s part adolescent bawdiness and part Jean Genet.
In Noisette, a motion detector activates a protruding prosthetic tongue from within a roughly cut hole in the drywall. It’s a naughty joke, of course, playing off the tradition of the glory hole. As work of art dealing with sexuality and the body, it is not at all courageous or groundbreaking the way Valie Export and Vito Acconci used to be or how Andrea Fraser still is.
Craig Drennen is an artist working in Atlanta, GA.
“Madame Fisscher”, Palazzo Grassi, Venice, 15 April-15 July=
Urs Fischer x Garage Magazine
The Swiss Artist Talks Art and Celebrity With Curator and Commentator Neville Wakefield
A banana, an egg and a carrot are just a few of the surreal masks devised by Urs Fischer in this special selection from his latest series, The Problem with Paintings, from the upcoming fourth issue of the biannual magazine Garage. Known for confronting our notions of identity and celebrity in works such as Problem Paintings, where images of Hollywood icons are obscured with foods and household objects, here the Zurich-born artist continues the theme by playfully casting real-life subjects to interact with their fruit and vegetable disguises. Garage is the brainchild of Russian collector and LACMA trustee Dasha Zhukova, whose ground-breaking Garage Center for Contemporary Culture opened in Moscow in 2008 to great acclaim.==
- THE ARENA
- February 24, 2012
The Oscar-Weekend Art Show
At a gallery’s annual Academy Awards-pegged exhibit, Urs Fischer breaks down walls
Swiss-born installation artist Urs Fischer is the art world’s demolition man. For New York’s Whitney Biennial in 2006, Mr. Fischer tore through gallery walls to create large gaping holes. The next year, he jackhammered through the floors in Gavin Brown’s West Village art gallery. Now, he has cut a door through one of the white walls of Larry Gagosian’s Beverly Hills, Calif., gallery to better showcase his latest exhibition: “Urs Fischer: Beds & Problem Paintings.”
Over the past decade, Mr. Fischer has gained traction in contemporary art circles for his depictions of things on the verge of falling apart. He once used loaves of sourdough bread to build an alpine cabin; in another series, he carved wax nudes with candle wicks atop their heads so, if lighted, they would melt. One of those waxworks, “Untitled (Candle),” sold at a Sotheby’s auction for $1 million.
- ART & AUCTIONS
- April 13, 2012, 9:15 a.m. ET
Sculpting to His Own Beat
Swiss Artist Urs Fischer Defies Conventions; Palazzo Grassi’s Monograph Survey
By ANDREW MCKIE
Stefan Altenburger / Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich‘Madame Fisscher, 1999-2000’ by Urs Fischer.
This is the enigmatic title of a monograph exhibition bringing together some 30 works by Urs Fischer until July 15 (www.palazzograssi.it), the first solo show at the gallery to be devoted to a living artist, and which forms a sort of mini-retrospective of the Swiss sculptor’s work since the late 1990s.
Stefan Altenburger / Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich‘The Lock’ (2007), on show at Palazzo Grassi in Venice
Stefan Altenburger / Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich‘abC’ (2007)
At another station in the studio, three assistants were working on a “Problem,” standing on top of a canvas and using a large, roller-like apparatus to place an image. On a wooden table nearby, fruits and vegetables in various stages of freshness were laid out. They are photographed in the studio; a black sheet separates off a photography studio. Mr. Fischer works by trial and error. “We’ll photograph 20 vegetables,” he said. “They all look shit, then one looks good. Some things work, some don’t.”
On the walls were completed “Problem Pictures,” the most iconic of which is an actor apparently outfitted as Napoleon whose nose is obscured by beets, complete with their roots and stems. “I use these publicity stills because they look a certain way,” Mr. Fischer said. “I’m happy you don’t know who it is. It becomes like nobody. These images of people who pretend to be somebody, but they’re nobody.”
Cinematic imagery has played a role in Mr. Fischer’s work before. Last year he painted Frankenstein’s craggy visage, probably a still from Bride, interrupted by a strawberry. In one of his books, his large blob-like metal sculptures—there were several at the New Museum and a monumental one stands on the grounds of megacollector Peter Brant’s foundation in Greenwich, Conn.—are superimposed onto street scenes, in place of monsters on the attack. In that book, these sculptures, which bear the greatly enlarged fingerprints of their creator, appear alongside and seem to grow out of the Mummy, and, again, Frankenstein, whose repetition implicates Frankenstein as a metaphor for sculpture itself, or perhaps Dr. Frankenstein as a metaphor for a sculptor: this is high-stakes bricolage, monster-making. But the latest crop of “Problem Pictures” seems apt for a Hollywood setting on Oscars weekend: the glossy visages of stars and starlets, interrupted. The “Problem Pictures” could, as a group, stand in for the role of art in Tinseltown amidst all the glitz and glam of awards weekend. James Franco notwithstanding, visual artists still seem a bit of a sideshow in L.A., sometimes a nose-thumbing one. Produce would be one way to foil the paparazzi: Hey it’s…wait…can you move that banana for a second so we can see who it is?
Mr. Fischer produced a small photograph of another “Problem Painting” he’d been working on. Like the rest, it has an image of an actress in the background, but, in place of a fruit or vegetable, there is a person in the foreground of this one, Mats, one of his studio assistants. “This is a photo of someone who is not pretending to be someone else,” Mr. Fischer said. “He just is who he is.” Before taking the photograph, he’d been telling Mats dirty jokes, and got him laughing, so this “Problem Painting” lacks a certain stern quality that the others have. “He wasn’t in control of how he looks. It’s the antidote to all of this.”
Mr. Fischer’s last exhibition in Los Angeles, in 2007, with his looping-line sculptures and a life-size, melting chair, was at Regen Projects gallery, a more modest venue than Gagosian. In his studio, Mr. Fischer made allusions to the changing composition of his collector base, and the potential need to adapt to this. “The people that come [to your work], it changes,” he said. “It changes the problems you have, and sometimes it’s good to get work with new people who understand this world better.”
The cast of characters invested in Mr. Fischer’s work has indeed changed in the past few years. In May 2010, his well-received exhibition “Oscar the Grouch” opened at the foundation of Peter Brant, who is known to own some of the pieces that were on view at the 2009 New Museum show. The same week the Brant Foundation show opened, a 2007 Fischer, The Grass Munchers, the artist’s arms and hands made out of cast aluminum, pigments and wax, sold at auction for $902,500, way past its $600,000 high estimate, and more than four times his previous record of $144,400. In June 2010, the art industry newsletter the Baer Faxt reported that, while Gagosian didn’t represent Mr. Fischer, he would do a show in Los Angeles. It was in November of that year that Mr. Fischer’s work hit the million-dollar mark at auction, when his life-size candle sculpture in the shape of a woman, in an edition of three, sold at Sotheby’s for $1 million over a high estimate of $600,000. It went to an anonymous buyer on the phone, but Larry Gagosian and Peter Brant were under bidders.
The following May, Mr. Fischer’s monumental yellow teddy bear sculpture sold for his current auction record of $6.8 million; the Warhol-collecting Mugrabi family consigned it to Christie’s, having reportedly bought the piece from the auction house’s owner, Mr. Pinault. Another of the bear sculptures is owned by hedge fund honcho Steve Cohen. According to a report on Artinfo by Judd Tully, last September, at the Haiti benefit auction organized by David Zwirner gallery and Christie’s, it was former Christie’s contemporary art head and now powerful private art advisor Philippe Ségalot who placed the winning bid on Mr Fischer’s aluminum panel and silkscreen piece Tomorrow (2011), after competing with Acquavella Galleries, dealer Christophe van de Weghe, and Christie’s specialist Robert Manley. Mr. Ségalot is art advisor to Mr. Pinault.
And, come April, Mr. Fischer will have the distinction, with his “Madame Fisscher” show, which spans two decades, of being the first living artist to be the subject of a solo exhibition at Mr. Pinault’s Palazzo Grassi museum. His first major museum outing since the New Museum in 2009, and his most significant one in Europe, it includes both pieces from Mr. Pinault’s collection and loans from institutions and private collectors. The artist is looking forward to it. “Things can go through immense bureaucracies,” he said. “At the Palazzo, they don’t have those structures. People take care of things, things happen.”
As for the Gagosian exhibition, for anyone who was watching and, as it were, reading closely back in fall 2009, Mr. Fischer’s showing eventually at one of the 11 worldwide outposts of Gagosian gallery had an air of inexorability to it. In October 2009, on the occasion of Mr. Fischer’s New Museum exhibition, The New Yorker magazine ran a profile of him by Calvin Tomkins. Discussing Mr. Fischer’s 2007 artwork You, a giant hole dug in the floor of Gavin Brown’s West Village gallery–it was purchased by Peter Brant and re-shown in the 2010 exhibition at the Brant Foundation–Mr. Tomkins included the parenthetical, “(Chris Burden had done something similar—and much larger—in 1986, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, with a piece called Exposing the Foundation of a Museum.)” For anyone on whom that “and much larger” was lost, the point was jackhammered home by a full-page ad that Gagosian took out in the Dec. 2009 issue of Artforum magazine, while Mr. Fischer’s exhibition was still on view at the New Museum; it showed a photograph of Mr. Burden’s 1986 piece, along with a message: “Chris Burden is represented by Gagosian Gallery.”
While he appreciates Mr. Burden’s work, Mr. Fischer said he doesn’t see the comparison. “There are lots of holes that are not as profane as showing the foundation of the institution,” he said in his studio. “I come from an emotional point of view, not from a didactic point of view.” If You must be compared to another hole, he seems to prefer it be Double Negative, a 30-foot-wide, 50-foot-deep, 1,500-foot-long trench that Michael Heizer dug into the Nevada desert in 1969.
At the moment, there is much talk in the art world about the role of the megagallery, hoovering up artists from the smaller shops. But Mr. Fischer makes no apologies for the exigencies of the market, or for the decisions he’s made about where to show his art, and he shows it at many places, including Gavin Brown in New York and now Gagosian in Los Angeles. He talks about “program galleries” and “dealers.” “Art dealers are people who never built somebody up but they can do things very well,” he said. “They can do things very discreetly.”
“I need to find a good balance of everything,” he added. “That’s the way it is. The thing is, never pity a gallerist. They can always pick up another artist, if they are doing their job. As an artist, you have one artist.”
Messages at the entrances to places are generally significant. In the Inferno, Dante is 35 years old, “halfway along our life’s path”—you might say he’s mid-career—when he finds himself in a dark wood, having lost his way. He encounters the poet Virgil, who leads him to the gate of Hell, which bears an inscription, “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate“—”Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Above the door of Mr. Fischer’s Red Hook studio, there is a white awning, on which these words are written in thick black type: “If you do not have a plan for your life, someone else will.”
By Faye Hirsch 1/1/10
Left to right, Violent Cappuccino, 2007; Miss Satin, 2006-08; David, the Proprietor, 2008-09; Frozen Pioneer, 2009, and partial view of Marguerite de Ponty, 2006-08. Photo Benoit Pailley.; View of the installation “Service à la française,” 2009, silkscreen on mirrored chrome steel; at the New Museum. Photo Benoit Pailley.;
The Answer Is ‘Why?’ Urs Fischer Overwhelms at New Gavin Brown Show
Can You Dig It?
At Gavin Brown, Urs Fischer takes a jackhammer to Chelsea itself.
CAN YOU DIG IT?
by Jerry Saltz
Urs Fischer, “You,” Oct. 25-Dec. 22, 2007, at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, 620 Greenwich Street, New York, N.Y. 10014 Urs Fischer has reduced Gavin Brown’s Enterprise to a hole in the ground, and it is one of the most splendid things to have happened in a New York gallery in a while. Experientially rich, buzzing with
and entropy, crammed with chaos and contradiction, and topped off with the saga of subversion that is central both to the history of the empty-gallery-as-a-work-of-art but also to the Gavin Brown experience itself, this work is brimming with meaning and mojo. It was also a Herculean project.
A 38-foot-by-30-foot crater, eight feet deep, extends almost to the walls of the gallery, surrounded by a 14-inch ledge of concrete
. A sign at the door cautions, THE INSTALLATION IS PHYSICALLY DANGEROUS AND INHERENTLY INVOLVES THE RISK OF SERIOUS INJURY OR DEATH; intrepid viewers can, all the same, inch their way around the hole. Fischer’s pit is titled You, and it took ten days to build, costing around $250,000 of Brown’s money. (Heaven only knows what his landlord thought of it.) The gallery’s ground-level garage
facilitated the jackhammering and removal of the concrete floor and the use of a backhoe to excavate tons of dirt and debris, after which a crew closed off the space with immaculate white walls. There’s also a cramped antechamber, superfluous but well executed: A smaller reproduction of the main gallery, down to the air ducts and electrical outlets, it’s sort of a mini-Me You. Ducking through its pint-size entrance is like going though a door in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. You have to crouch as you enter and watch where you step in preparation for the more precarious and thrilling main event beyond.Fischer’s extraordinary gesture touches on the tradition of indoor earthworks that includes pieces from the 1960s and ‘70s by Gordon Matta-Clark, Robert Smithson, Walter De Maria, Michael Heizer, Chris Burden and others, while also bringing together many of his ongoing themes of transparency, transformation, disruption and destruction. He’s cut holes in gallery and museum walls and created sculptures that merge with one another. You simultaneously attacks and fetishizes the attributes of galleries, the qualities that the critic Brian O’Doherty has described as “something of the sacredness of churches, the austerity of courtrooms, the mysteriousness of research laboratories, something that, together with stylish designs, makes them unique cultic places of the esthetic.” You is like a nest, a bunker, or Caspar David Friedrich’s The Wreck of Hope, his painting of a ship smashed to pieces in a sea of ice. It is a perfect metaphor for a revved-up art world as it is stripped down by the market.
In a very minimalist yet surreal and expressionistic way, You makes space palpable. Initially the chasm dominates your vision and takes over the room, like Magritte’s painting of a giant green apple filling space. As your vision adjusts, your inner ear goes into high gear as you realize that while standing at floor level you’re no longer at the base of the gallery but halfway up the walls. The room transforms into something unmoored, like a Tiepolo or Correggio painting. As you
everything from this unfamiliar perch, your eye takes over and details come into focus. This I-can-see-everything realism echoes the experience of paintings by Ingres and David.You is less a Deconstructivist avant-garde gesture or a parodic work of anti-art than it is an inversion machine. To be in it is to be above and below at the same time. You are indoors and outdoors; there are the perfect white walls of the gallery and this red-brown New York earth. Jeff Wall has talked about how painting a person is “the simultaneous trace of two bodies and so is inherently erotic.” You is a tracing of Brown’s gallery and galleries in general, and it pulsates with erotic energy. Intensely lit and rigidly framed, it also has the abstract presence of a photograph, recalling the trench in Wall’s own photos Dead Troops Talk and The Flooded Grave.
A hidden layer of content adds more meaning. Gavin Brown was a leading member of a wave of dealers who opened galleries in the midst of the early-‘90s art-market downturn and who helped reinvigorate New York. Over the years his gallery has been a site of experimentation, provocation and community. Among other accomplishments, Brown was the first New York gallerist to mount solo shows of Chris Ofili, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Piotr Uklanski and Anselm Reyle. But as Brown helped frame the discourse of the ‘90s, and rightly profited from it, the recent money frenzy has seen Ofili leave for David Zwirner and Uklanski and Reyle defect to Gagosian; the Chapmans now show at Gagosian, too. You suggests that exhibitions themselves have become conventional, that too many of them go down easy or look the same — product after product, all lined up on the wall or in a room, like orderly items for sale. Thus, You is a kind of warning sign. At the same time, it’s making fun of the convention. After all, there is a clown-like exaggeration and madness to the piece.
Mostly, You is an amazing sight that warps psychic space. It’s a bold act that brings on claustrophobia and agoraphobia at the same time, makes you look at galleries in a new way, and serves as a bracing palate cleanser.
JERRY SALTZ is art critic for New York Magazine, where this article first appeared. He can be reached at email@example.com
A WHOLE NEW MUSEUM
by Jerry Saltz
Urs Fischer specializes in making jaws drop. Cutting giant holes in gallery walls, digging a crater in Gavin Brown’s gallery
in 2007, creating amazing hyperrealist wallpaper for a group show at Tony Shafrazi: It all percolates with uncanny destructiveness, operatic uncontrollability and barbaric sculptural power. It’s set expectations for his full-building retrospective at the New Museum incredibly high, and he’s
to meet them. Fischer has lowered ceilings, added lights, and closed off
, trying to get the effects he wants in this cold, almost soulless exhibition space. So much so that the curator Massimiliano Gioni mused to one writer, “I have thought a couple of times of killing him.”
Thrill seekers, be forewarned: There’s bravura work but no drop-dead moment here. Each of Fischer’s three
is beautiful, and each has an elfin elusiveness and deep
intelligence. They also have dead spots and duds. Fischer is weakest at smaller discrete sculptures and best when he’s taking over entire spaces or reacting to other artworks nearby. (Also, at a rumored $330,000 to stage, the show is another example of an art world that doesn’t know when to say no.) Had Fischer made a swashbuckling statement by (let’s say) demolishing the museum’s second and third floors, he would have wowed everyone. Instead, thankfully, he took the hard way, putting together multiple ideas: exploring the sculptural-philosophical-experiential qualities of fullness on the fourth floor, emptiness on the third, and a mixture of both on the second floor. (For the record, the only hole here is a little one in a third-floor wall; a pink latex tongue sticks out, making it seem like the museum is clowning around, blowing you off, talking back, enticing or hitting on you. A sight gag, and a great illustration of the weird ways museums have desires, needs, ideas and consciousness.)Step out of the elevator on four, and you’re in a gigantic otherworldly nursery. Five enormous molten-looking amorphous ectoplasmic excrescences fill the space, dwarfing viewers. Fischer makes these sculptures by squeezing clay, computer-scanning the shapes, making molds, and casting them in aluminum at monstrous proportions. They’re where de Kooning, Rodin and Lynda Benglis meet Frankenstein, Warhol’s floating silver pillows and the hatchery from Aliens. Gigantic fingerprints are visible; humongous thumbnails protrude. They make the room hum (even as they give off a whiff of old-style formalist abstract sculpture writ large) and create a feeling of things pupating — of the pure, unformed future being relentlessly pressed into shape by the past.
Fischer’s ideas about exaggeration, entropy, optics and play are all present in the stunning second-floor installation. Here, 51 large shiny chrome boxes — Warhol Brillo boxes by way of John McCracken’s pristine minimalist slabs — have been arranged in an irregular grid. Each sports a super-detailed, five-sided photographic image of something one sees every day (a cupcake, a lighter, shoes, a souvenir) that turns out to be a composite of thousands of individual images. Walking among these quasi-Cubist futuristic photographs is like being in a city of cryogenically disembodied objects displayed on ultraembodied perfect containers. It’s a walk-in necropolis, an exploration of the fabled ghost-in-the-machine but a look at the machine in ghosts — the essence that can make real things feel like shells of themselves.
The heart of the show, though, is the third floor, which echoes Fischer’s tour de force Shafrazi wallpaper. It is essentially a walk-in photograph of the room itself. Fischer photographed every inch of the gallery, then wallpapered the room with a printed reproduction. The experience is like being enveloped in alien architecture. Fischer almost goes and spoils the experience with a silly sculpture of a melting piano plunked down in the corner — but then all this thwarted interiority and mechanical reproduction sparks to life in a tiny detail: A beautiful artificial butterfly alights on a croissant suspended from the ceiling. It’s an absurd, wondrous sight. This tiny replica of a reincarnating insect — one that might have flown down from the fourth floor — is the secret soul of the whole show.
Calling a young artist “great” these days can give one the heebie-jeebies: The word has been denatured in the past decade. Still, amid the duds and stumbles, Fischer’s wizardly ability to present objects on the brink of falling apart, floating away or undergoing psychic transformation, and his forceful feel for chaos, carnality and materiality, make him, for me, one of the most imaginative powerhouses we have.
“Urs Fischer: Marguerite de Ponty,” Oct. 21, 2009-Feb. 7, 2010, at the New Museum, 235 Bowery, New York, N.Y. 10002.
JERRY SALTZ is art critic for New York magazine, where this essay first appeared. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stedelijk Museum Bureau, Amsterdam
SMBA – Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam
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fon +31 (0)20 422 04 71
Urs Fischer – The Membrane-And Why I Don´t Mind Bad Mooded PeopleAlways the Soup of the DayI have to think of the American artist Bill Copley, former bon vivant and incorrigible dilettante. His great gift was not being able to draw. If he wanted to render a voluptuous woman and this ended up in scribbling, he would decide, from one minute to the next, to transform the woman into a cowboy with a whip and thus bring the drawing to a successful conclusion. Urs Fischer can indeed appreciate that receptiveness to change. ‘What does it matter? Nobody’s telling me what my work has to look like. I’ve made it the way I’ve made it.’ Perhaps James Ensor was right when, in 1923, he payed tribute to the making of mistakes, ‘those inevitable companions of great qualities,’ as he called them. ‘Faults elude conventional and banal perfections,’ argues the painter. ‘Therefore fault is multiple, it is life, it reflects the personality of the artist and his character, it is human, it is everything, it will redeem the work.’and other things, and those castings would be held against the wall, like transparent membranes, by sheets of glass.’ The envisaged work never took shape – due to a lack of time, a bad mood, an error in the purchase of materials. But M.FChleimer der Hoffnung (1999), Dr. Katzelberg (the ruin of civilization)(1999) and Glaskatzensex / Transparent Tale (2000) can hardly be downgraded for these reasons. Fischer: ‘I don’t consider those sculptures unsuccessful. Something else just developed as I was working. It’s a two-way street. Your thoughts determine the images, and it is the images, in turn, which determine your thoughts. There is no fundamental difference between the two. Sooner or later, there comes a time when the work needs a twist. It asks for this. It wants you to intervene, since otherwise it will flop. No one cares if I’m being faithful to my original idea at this point. Looking back I sometimes wonder: was I being sincere when I made this, was it a meaningful experience? But others couldn’t care less about that. You always have to find your way through the work itself. In the end all that counts is whether the artwork takes on a life of its own. I try to create something which is itself.’Which artists interest you?
‘Many different ones for different reasons. Right now, for instance, I’m rereading David Sylvester’s interviews with Francis Bacon. The work of Robert Smithson, Paul Thek and Michael Buthe also interests me, because I’m irritated by their own worlds which they create. And Chris Burden – difficult to say why. He’s never designed a new layout for the making of art, but his work is nonetheless funny in a peculiar sort of way, even the politically inspired works.’Dominic van den Boogerd
Roll With It
The chair is a recurring motif in Fischer’s work, and in wider art history. It takes only a moment to think-up an André Malraux-like ‘imaginary museum’ of chairs in art, from Vincent Van Gogh’s Van Gogh’s Chair of 1888 (the chair as self-portrait), through Marcel Duchamp’s stool-mounted Bicycle Wheel of 1913 (the chair as found object) and Joseph Kosuth’s One and Three Chairs of 1965 (the chair as tautology) to Martin Kippenberger’s The Happy End of Franz Kafka’s America of 1994 (the chair as surrogate everyman, attempting to differentiate himself within an indifferent bureaucracy). In each of these works, it’s furniture’s ordinariness, or rather the idea of its ordinariness, that makes things tick, and Fischer follows their lead, at least up to a point. Yet, despite his chairs’ quotidian appearance (all cowboy carpentry and coagulated paint), they keep getting caught up in the most extraordinary of circumstances. Take You Can Not Win (2003), whose base is run through with a gigantic cigarette lighter, or Chair for a Ghost (Thomas) (2003), whose surface seems to have been partially eroded by the ectoplasmic farts of a phantom bottom. What are we to make of this? Perhaps that ordinariness is under constant threat, or (more persuasively) that it is a false philosophical category.
Tom Morton is a contributing editor of frieze, a writer and curator.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Urs Fischer “Abstract Slavery”
Fischer is exploring an alchemical process here, producing complex aluminum copies out of very organic, earthy originals.
The room also recalls the one-paragraph Borges fable “On Exactitude in Science,” in which a map of an empire is created on a one-to-one scale, blanketing the territory in a copy of itself. It’s appropriation art on a grand scale: by photographing and reproducing the architecture, Fischer has made it his own. The copy doesn’t quite replace the original, but it certainly overwhelms it.
The last floor of the exhibition pushes the themes of appropriation and transformation further still, magnifying small objects into big, boxy prop versions of themselves. This is where the feeling of being in an artists’ funhouse becomes the most acute—in fact, according to a recent New Yorker profile, Fischer’s Red Hook studio looked a lot like this gallery in the weeks before the show opened. The room is filled with 51 chromed steel boxes of various dimensions varnished to be perfect mirrors and printed with silkscreens on their five exposed sides with blown-up images of relatively unremarkable objects: shoes, cheeses, fruits, lighters and books are among the most frequently-recurring subjects.
(photo credit: The New Museum)==
Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York, USA
Urs Fischer’s art is like a salesman who can hypnotize you into listening to a spiel that you didn’t know you needed to hear.
Ann Jones – Art and Writing
Portraits and problems
Urs Fischer, Problem Painting, 2012
Each of the Problem Paintings takes the same basic form. The works are large-scale (3.6m x 2.7m) screen-prints on aluminium, each consisting of a publicity photograph of a Hollywood movie star obscured by an object such as a vegetable or a screw.
To an extent, Fischer’s juxtapositions operate in a similar way to some of John Stezaker’s collages but here there is the added element of scale and medium.
20-Ton Urs Fischer Teddy Bear Sculpture Headed for Park Avenue
Posted by Benjamin Sutton on Mon, Apr 4, 2011 at 11:42 AM
Public art season is in full swing: Park Avenue’s already got Will Ryman’s giant roses, and this week, a few blocks to the south, Christie’s will be installing Red Hook-based art star Urs Fischer‘s massive bronze teddy bear sculpture “Untitled (Lamp/Bear)” (pictured) at the foot of the Seagram Building.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the epic, 20-ton sculpture—based on a one-foot knitted bear that was scanned by a Swiss firm and fabricated in three editions in its immensely magnified form by a Shanghai foundry—will head to auction next month, and is expected to fetch a Koonsian sum well over $10 million.
To prepare for its arrival at the pedestrian plaza outside the Seagram Building—the property of major art collector and real estate mogul Aby Rosen, one of the sculpture’s sellers along with Warhol dealer Alberto Mugrabi—the space’s floor had to be reinforced to handle the piece’s incredible weight and six city permits had to be procured. When the “Untitled (Lamp/Bear)” is installed sometime this week, a team of roughly 30 workers will be on hand to put its massive pieces together and hook up its electronics—at nighttime, the giant light bulb above the bear’s head lights up. The other two bears, another yellow one and a blue one, belong to entrepreneur Adam Lindemann (who keeps his next to his comparatively tiny summer house in Montauk) and hedge-fund manager Steven Cohen.
Fischer, who had his first major survey in the U.S. in 2009 at the New Museum, is known for such monumental sculptures often based on tiny objects. He has yet to claim exclusive rights to all teddy bear images. (ArtInfo, Photo)
Speaking in tongues: the art of Urs Fischer
The Swiss artist’s edible moons, flying cakes and drunken pianos fill the New Museum in New York. But haven’t we seen them somewhere before?
Waiting for a kiss? … Urs Fischer’s Noisette. Photograph: Courtesy the artist / Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York / Sadie Coles HQ, London / Galerie Eva Presenhuber
With a rubbery thunk, a tongue suddenly pokes out from a roughly gouged hole in the wall. It retreats back into the darkness just as rapidly. I consider letting it kiss me, but I doubt the New Museum in New York would allow it. Nearby, a crescent moon hangs in space on a length of fishing line. The moon is a croissant, and on it sits a butterfly. You could lean forward and take a bite, but it would spoil the effect. Usually I don’t go around eating the art, much less snogging it. But there’s plenty of food for thought in Urs Fischer’s Marguerite de Ponty, an oddly titled exhibition (Marguerite was a pseudonym of symbolist French poet Stéphane Mallarmé) that fills the entirety of this space.
Taste of the moon … Urs Fischer’s Cupadre, 2009. Photograph: Galerie Eva Presenhuber/ courtesy the artist; Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York; Sadie Coles HQ
Tipsy piano … Urs Fischer’s Untitled, 2009. Photograph: Benoit Pailley/ Galerie Eva Presenhuber/ courtesy the artist; Sadie Coles HQ, London; Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York
View of Urs Fischer’s show, including Service a la français. Photograph: Benoit Pailley/ Galerie Eva Presenhuber/Courtesy the artist; Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York; Sadie Coles HQ
Magical and confusing … Urs Fischer, The Lock, 2007. Photograph: Benoit Pailley/Collection Amalia Dayan
A week ago, during a series of talks in Toronto focussing on the current financial crisis and how it affects art, the New Museum’s Richard Flood told the audience that the days of artistic mega-projects were over. Successful artists were no longer routinely getting $50,000 monthly stipends, Flood said, and huge installations costing the earth were no longer viable or desirable in these straightened, austere times. Fischer’s show seems oblivious to the trend. Many of Fischer’s works over the years have displayed a make-do-and-mend, hand-made, bricolage approach, but this exhibition is like a variety act who has suddenly hit the big time. The gags are much the same, but the stage is bigger and more daunting. The New Museum’s remit is to show younger artists, few of whom will now be able to compete with the production values of artists like Fischer. Some time soon, he may not be able to compete with himself.
But wait. In a back stairwell are some little collaborative pieces Fischer made with the terrific, underrated German artist Georg Herold. The sculptures – if you can call them that – are wonderfully ridiculous: short light fittings whose fluorescent tubes have been replaced by a cucumber and a carrot, held in place with rubber bands. These may just be jokes, but they have wit and sculptural ingenuity. Next to these are some little plaster casts of thumbs and fingers, grasping a real frankfurter. To make things this direct, this dumb, this disarming and this funny takes talent, gall and nerve. What does it add up to, you ask. Perhaps nothing more than a loud guffaw, echoing up the building from the stairs.
Urs on Film
Swiss director Iwan Schumacher’s new documentary, Urs Fischer, studies the intensely creative years that culminated in the New York-based artist’s first U.S. solo museum show, “Marguerite de Ponty,” at the New Museum in 2010. The film, which premieres tonight at the New Museum, opens with a close-up of a dashboard statuette of Elvis Presley. The potential comparison between the performer and Fischer isn’t accidental: Schumacher is interested in Fischer as an artist, and as a natural-born performer who instantly captures the camera’s affection.
The director combines the creation and installation of the New Museum show with documentation of shows in Australia and Rotterdam, and quotidian scenes from the artist’s Brooklyn studio.
Throughout Fischer evokes a modern day Orson Welles, his comportment and charisma mirroring his larger-than-life sculptures. “Everything about him is so very physical—the way he walks, his gestures,” Schumacher told A.i.A. “You can see that physicality in the work. That’s what drew me to him. He’s like an actor from a ’40s French movie.”
In lieu of documenting Fischer’s private life, which was off-limits, Schumacher creates a humorous subplot in the form of a sweetheart relationship between Fischer and a little dog named Leila, who seems to be doing her best to capture the artist’s wandering attention. In the scenes with the dog, Fischer reveals himself to be as much a gentle lover as a creative force of nature. “Those scenes give a glimpse of who Urs is as a man,” says Shumacher.
A parallel subplot of man against the system casts a benevolent antagonist in the form of New Museum curator Massimiliano Gioni, who seems more bemused than authentically distressed by Fischer’s last minute changes to the exhibition. “Their relationship captures the interplay between the institution, which is kind of rigid, and the artist, who represents total freedom,” says Schumacher.
Schumacher began documenting Fischer in 2004, focusing on singular installations-“I was documenting like an art collector, choosing specific works,” laughs Schumacher-before deciding to create a feature film. Many of these one-off early documentations appear in the film, most notably a 2005 show at the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi in Milan. Here, Schumacher’s camera gracefully ascends and descends on Jet Set Lady, an enormous, scaffold-like sculpture affixed with 2,000 of Fischer’s drawings. Shooting from a crane, Schumacher lifts his viewer to the top of the largest sculptures for a uniquely panoptical view of the work.
Tonight Gavin Brown’s Enterprise and the Swiss Institute New York host the film’s invitation-only premiere.
URS FISCHER: Marguerite de Ponty
by Kathleen Massara
The New Museum of Contemporary Art
October 28, 2009 – February 7, 2010
Installation view of “Urs Fischer: Marguerite de Ponty” (left to right: David, the Proprietor; Frozen Pioneer). Courtesy the artist; Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York; Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zürich; and Sadie Coles HQ, London. Photograph by Benoit Pailley.
“Urs is an avalanche that’s eating you,” says Massimiliano Gioni in between bites of pasta. The curator is referring to the amount of work involved in setting up Urs Fischer’s solo exhibition at the New Museum, but this statement also applies to the sheer amount of work produced by the artist since coming on the scene in the early ’90s. Gioni has been a fan throughout the arc of Fischer’s career, and remarked, “He was somebody I really wanted to show in New York and thought he deserved it.”
This is the first time the museum has been dedicated to the work of a single artist since moving to its Bowery location two years ago, requiring hundreds of workers to realize the 36-year-old Swiss artist’s complicated and costly vision. Urs Fischer: Marguerite de Ponty, which runs through Feb. 7, 2010, is the result of four years of planning and a series of last-minute changes. Gioni says, “We didn’t want to do a show like ‘Urs Fischer Takes Over Because He’s A Big Guy,’ you know? It’s more that the work justified that and can sustain [it]. Hopefully the show will confirm that.” Gioni continued, “Every artwork demands or creates the space around itself. In the case of Urs’s work, he needs physically a lot of room to breathe and mess around with.”
However, the exhibition, billed as an “introspective” that has been “choreographed” by the artist, is mostly disappointing despite Gioni’s enthusiasm. The use of Stéphane Mallarmé’s female pseudonym “Mme de Ponty”—who designed dresses and answered an advice column for the French poet’s satirical late-1800s fashion magazine La Derniere Mode—as the name of the exhibition is just one example of the inflated language used throughout the “introspective.” Fischer uses this and other Mallarmé nom de plumes for four of the five gigantic aluminum sculptures displayed
Like Martin Kippenberger, Fischer is obsessed with repetition and possesses a seemingly blasé approach to the commonplace. But unlike Kippenberger, Fischer seems to be more interested in concealing rather than revealing his motivations for his work. However, some predictable themes crop up involving decay and the passage of time.
Kathleen Massara is a freelance writer. She is currently an intern at Harper’s.
- Vincent Johnson’s Nine Grayscale Paintings – studio shot – 1 (Silver hand)
Vincent Johnson received his MFA from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California 1997 and his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Painting 1986. He started out as a student in Pratt’s painting department. He is a 2005 Creative Capital Grantee, and was nominated for the Baum: An Emerging American Photographer’s Award in 2004 and for the New Museum of Contemporary Arts Aldrich Art Award in 2007 and for the Art Matters grant in 2008, and in 2009 nominated for Foundation for Contemporary Art Fellowship, Los Angeles. In 2010 he was named a United States Artists project artist. His work has been reviewed in ArtForum, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, Art in America, Art Slant and many other publications. His photographic works were most recently shown in the inaugural Pulse Fair Los Angeles. His most recent paintings were shown at the Beacon Arts Center in Los Angeles.
- Vincent Johnson – in studio working on Nine Grayscale Paintings
Urs Fischer Shocks With Nude Exhibition in Italy
Posted: May. 16th, 2012 | Comments 0 | Make a Comment
Photo Courtesy of Urs Fischer
Spring ushered in a racy new exhibit which is on display at the Palazzo Grassi in Venezia, Italy. The exhibit features works by contemporary Swiss artist Urs Fischer. The artist, who was born in 1973, is best known for large-scale installation and sculptures that have been placed in special collections around the world, including the Whitney Museum of American Art
in New York City. Fischer is the first living artist to be honored with a one-man show at the Palazo Grassi, and the exhibition will work alongside a bevy of cultural activities including collaboration with students from the Accademia delle Belle Art di Venezia.
A rarity, Fischer did not attend art school; instead he allowed art to reveal itself gradually to him. “Actually, I’m only starting to learn about art art now,” Fischer remarked in an interview with Gavin Brown for Interview magazine. His art exhibit titled, “Madame Fisscher,” will feature thirty of Fischer’s works that belong to both the Pinault Foundation as well as international art collectors. The collection is set in the center of the Palazzo Grassi’ s main atrium, allowing visitors to view the work from several levels above.
There, Fischer’s installation, Madame Fisscher which inspired the exhibition title, sits within four walls and serves as a representation of Fischer’s studio, showcasing a multitude of sculptural elements. However, it is Fischer’s Necrophonia installation piece for the Italian museum that has caused the most commotion— it features a live female model, who is displayed nude reclining and moving beside sculpted studies. The model’s juxtaposition with her surroundings is meant to express the organic nature of the body and works as commentary on the way art is experienced both publically and privately.
In a sense, Necrophonia represents the exhibition as whole, which features the span of Fischer’s work from 1990 to present. The installation is meant to express the passage of time as well as art’s transient nature. The exhibit will run from 15 April until 15 July 2012. To learn more about the exhibit visit Palazzograssi.it.
|urs fischer : jet set lady
||jet set lady – a project by urs fischer
fondazione nicola trussardi
istituto dei ciechi, milan
may 3rd – june 1st, 2005
http://www.fondazionenicolatrussardi.comin the monumental space of the istituto dei ciechi in
via vivaio in milan, the fondazione nicola trussardi presented
the first solo exhibition in italy of swiss artist urs fischer.
‘jet set lady’, 2005
iron, wood, 2000 framed drawings, 24 neon lights
700 x 700 x 900 cm
© urs fischer
produced by fondazione nicola trussardi, milano
detail of ‘jet set lady’, iron frames and death image
© urs fischer
apple, pear, screws, nylon
© urs fischer
shot a different day
– just curious how often they exchane the apple/pear
© urs fischer
‘house of bread’, 2004
bread, wood, expanding foam, light
533 x 472 x 366 cm
© urs fischer‘house of bread’,
pictured on 24.05.2005 with roof ‘eaten’ by canaries
© urs fischer
‘house of bread’,
© urs fischer
close-up to bread and canaries
© urs fischer
‘house of bread’,
© urs fischer
‘house of bread’,
walking on bread rests
© urs fischer