Urs Fischer and 1,500 volunteers transformed heaps of unformed clay into an assimilation of dreamscapes; small and large-scale sculpture molded from the ground up as Los Angeles’ Geffen Contemporary Gallery saw the creation of YES. The 2013 exhibition was a testament to Fischer’s serious but playful engagement with temporality. The sculptures that arose from professionals, amateurs, friends, and strangers were crafted in artistic precision over the course of hours by some, and levity and quickness by others. Dispersed throughout the large space, the exhibition opened and brought with it both the intense weight of the cumulative efforts manifesting in a seemingly endless topography of clay, and the dense lightness that came with the understanding the works’ short lifespans. The “ephemeral energies of a collective creative act” were intentionally brought about by Fischer; wax candles dripped from some of his larger sculpture and the viewer knew this wasn’t a place they’d come back to visit some day; it’d be gone before enough time passed.
Where time felt limited last year, the dual openings which mark this year’s exhibitions (one at Gagosian at 821 Park Ave, simultaneous with the opening at 104 Delancey) are marked by their more serious engagement between the line of permanence and ephemerality. The Delancey exhibition is a pop-up in a former Chase bank on the Lower East Side; more than feeling out of place or juxtaposed in an interesting manner, the sculptures— gold and silver plated bronze castings of some of Fischer’s favorites from the YES exhibition of last year—feel more resilient (IE, they won’t deteriorate as wax falls on them), yet more ephemeral insofar as their location feels like a temporary holding closet. There’s a certain kind of magic that goes along with the visual distortion: a large cast of a pirate’s head sits where a bank teller would be, while an amputeed man asleep in a chair takes the place of the stand with coffee, tea, and deposit slips. When the vertigo fades, what remains is the non-logic of their being there at all other than for Fischer’s affective attachment to them. But this ends up being more than enough for the viewer to feel both at ease in the playful world, and allianced with Fischer in the idea that an exhibition of work as a collection of things he just really likes in a place he really likes is in itself a substantive way to curate a show.
Fischer’s “chaotic little non-family of things” don’t speak to each other outside of their silent solidarity. Pieces are often shut off from each other (because, banks have walls that traditional gallery spaces don’t.) But the smaller and more nondescript atmosphere of 104 Delancey still reckons with the same vital force of communal engagement so central to Fischer and his work. Casting these pieces in bronze commemorates the community that went about in their creation as a manifest way of re-engaging with the group energy of those 1,500 volunteers and the ephemeral nature of the whole process in a different way, where the ephemerality is captured here in the repurposing of the gallery space itself.
“Mermaid, Big, Bro W/ Hat” can be seen at 104 Delancey through May 23rd. “Last Supper” can be viewed at 821 Park Ave through May 8th. For more information on the concurrent exhibitions, please visit www.gagosian.com.
– Amie Zimmer
All images courtesy of Gagosian Gallery