Last week we profiled the work of Erwin Wurm, Lost at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac (Paris, January 14 – March 5). We’re reaching back a couple years to 2013 to his earlier exhibition at the gallery, Grammaire Wittgensteinienne de la Culture Physique (Paris, March 2 – June 1, 2013). In that show, Wurm exhibited a number of cast building sculptures alongside videos detailing how they were made.
Above image: Photograph by Philippe Servent, courtesy of the artist and the gallery.
Destruction and violence (but not “total” destruction and not “rage”) were used to alter each of the sculptures in a performance. Please see the video we posted showing Wurm doing stretches as he stands on the pitched roof of one sculpture, it’s clay giving way under his feet. It’s an odd, but memorable image.
The gallery states the buildings were modeled on European and American architecture. Some of them, Wurm notes in one video, were selected for their strictly functional design. No one cares which architect designed a prison, or a warehouse. Outside the gallery these are dehumanizing places, they dominate the people who inhabit them. It’s a bit of cold comfort knowing that the sculptures can be crushed underfoot. It implies that the real ones can be pummeled, too.
To alter the buildings Wurm punched them, kicked them and stood on them. In one instance he wielded a piece of rebar like a sword and hacked at a sculpture. He stresses that these were done without rage, that they were instead a dispassionate, almost ritualized kind of violence. That detail is worth pointing out because it’s a difficult kind of violence to categorize. We understand rage. It’s too easy. Violence divorced from emotion keeps us guessing. I got chills when I watched someone casually reading a book while stepping on one of the buildings, as though the violence was done by nothing other than carelessness. One of these buildings is Wurm’s ex-wife’s house. What kind of narrative does dispassionate violence imply there?
Once Wurm has gotten his licks in, he cast the sculptures in bronze, acrylic or polyester. He gave some of them a silver or gold plating. These all preserve whatever injuries the buildings sustained; it makes their injuries permanent. Please enjoy the gallery of gaping wounds we’ve assembled in this post.
Works by Erwin Wurm are part of collections worldwide, from Australia to the USA, according to Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac. In France, his works are present at the Centre Pompidou, Musée d’Art Contemporain/Lyon, CAPC Bordeaux, the FRAC Bourgogne (Dijon), Franche-Comté Limousin, Provence-Alpes Cote d’Azur (Marseille) and Languedoc-Roussillon (Montpellier).
A group exhibition with his One Minute Sculptures at the Tate Modern in London will open in January 2016, as well as a solo exhibition at the MAK Center for Art and Architecture, Schindler House, West Hollywood in California. The works of the exhibition Lost will subsequently be shown at the Berlinische Galerie in Berlin from 15 April until 22 August 2016. In September 2016 Erwin Wurm will open an important solo show at the Museo Novecento in Florence (Italy) and on several locations in public spaces.
What do you think of Wurm’s contemporary ceramic art? Let us know in the comments.