Urs Fischer, Problem Painting (2011). All images via Gagosian Gallery.
In his first exhibition with Gagosian Gallery Swiss-born, New York-based artist Urs Fischer presents a group of large-scale paintings and sculptures in the exhibition Beds and Problem Paintings. The installation at Gagosian is comprised of three parts: a series of paintings, a duo of fabricated beds, and a grouping of boxes reminiscent of the artist’s 2009 Service à la Française.
Now infamous for his spectacular installation You (2007) in which he excavated the floor of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in the West Village, Fischer is known for his uncanny manipulations of objects and space, as well as his attention to scale. As press for the exhibition describes, “he combines daring formal adventures in space, scale, and material with a mordant sense of humor.” Beds and Problem Paintings invites viewers into a space where Surrealism, Pop, and Minimalism merge in an exploration of classical art historical genres like portraiture, still life, and landscape.
Fischer’s Problem Paintings juxtapose vintage Hollywood headshots and everyday stuff, mostly fruits, vegetables, tools, and pipes. A banana and a beet become stand-ins for the noses of two actors; a mushroom totally obscures an actress’s visage, a metal pipe intrudes on the top half of another actress’s face. In each instance where such juxtapositions occur, the object carries a gesture that replaces rather than obliterates—for example, the opening of the metal pipe becomes a new ocular apparatus, or the beet a new nose.
Such everyday objects also appear upstairs in a series of mirrored chrome-steel sculptures. The photographed objects, imaged from each side (top, bottom, front, back, etc.), form a negative space against the slick, mirrored surfaces, simultaneously drawing on a Minimalist past (specifically Robert Morris) and confounding the distinction between image and object, object and environment.
The bed sculptures leave the image behind, manipulating the object through sleight-of-hand material transformations. Untitled (Soft Bed), like the work of Claes Oldenberg, turns the rigid structure soft, collapsing the form in on itself. Similarly, Kratz appears to buckle under the pressure of some invisible force as the mimetically-painted aluminum frame is upended by the weight of concrete.
Beds and Problem Paintings captivates viewers, reorienting our perceptual relations to forms and images, turning the everyday into the humorously fantastic.