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European-American Topics - Art - Erwin Wurm

Mind-boggling works by Austrian artist at the Frye:
I Love My Time, I Don’t Like My Time
ecent Work by Erwin Wurm

By Claire Rood, Austrian-American Council, WA State  
Posted November 25, 2006

Exhibition at the Frye Art Museum until January 28, 2007

            Contemplating this title, with its possible idiosyncrasy or wit, could be the key to best relate to the stunning works of this apparently easygoing world class artist. To set the stage the visitor is challenged right away to simulate what it takes to create a temporary sculpture by using the tools and the visual instruction provided by Erwin Wurm. For some, just hearing his name pronounced as “Worm” (the actual English translation of the word) when encouraged by staff to participate, already adds a quirky aspect. Worming into a provided garment alone or with a partner becomes a sculpture. On meeting a photograph of the “sculpted” chief curator Robin Held and a colleague we learn how “mass” can imply importance (and unchecked curatorial dominance). Thoughts may turn also to obesity as a mark of our time. Originally the exhibited maquette of a talking car happened to be a real car transformed into a fetish-like “soft sculpture”. Its juxtaposition to a simulated monologue about guns and drugs stirs further associations.

             Temporary quality and mass continue as characteristics throughout the exhibition and amplify the question about the direction of present concepts of sculpture, from photographs to drawings, to actions, to mere thought. The super size photographs of Wurm’s sculptures invite an excursion into a world of play with a twist and underline the absence of the traditional concepts. While “meaning” (or social comment) may not be uppermost in the artist’s vocabulary, he sometimes depicts an almost homogenized world: a young Thai girl with French fries between her toes in an Asian setting, “people of importance” sticking their heads through holes in a fridge or wall (with a cemetery behind it) or making a head-stand in a bucket. Hotel furniture is attached upright on walls, straight legs jut out of a high window at a right angle and the common game of passing an orange between people, without the use of hands, changes to a sculpture of a couple “held together” by oranges. In addition to sculptures of men resting on the toilet or in a stance phantasizing about nihilism or work the artist also assumes sculptural poses himself. Wurm did refer to Adorno and a number of sculptures of philosophers in his lecture. He also stated that “each time has its art” - “Jeder Zeit ihre Kunst”, the dictum of the Vienna Secessionists - that he strives to retain his independence and especially, that an idea he wants to explore is of much importance to him. He is known to have refused financially favorable offers.

            Presently, Wurm’s most widely known work is “House Attack”, an art installation at Vienna’s world class temple to art, the Museumquarter. A basic single upside down family house is precariously attached diagonally at the roof and the external fašade of the Museum of Modern Art as if falling down. Bloggers hint, that among other things, this implies that our world is upside down or that our cities are getting too crowded. The artist provided the sketch for this oeuvre; the installation was undertaken and paid for by professionals in the building trade and the museum. The photograph of it has been featured for weeks on the front page of the online version of “Die Presse”, Austria’s leading newspaper. That said, it is evident that at the core of Wurm’s art is the idea.

            I loved the quirky and fun aspects and liked the challenge of this exhibition at the Frye.


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