New York – Erwin Wurm: “Synthesa” at Lehmann Maupin Through April 19th, 2014

April 19th, 2014

Erwin Wurm, Kiss (Abstract Sculptures) (2013), via Art Observed
Erwin Wurm, Kiss (Abstract Sculptures) (2013), via Art Observed

Taking up the main room of Lehmann Maupin’s considerable Chelsea gallery, Austrian artist Erwin Wurm is presenting a series of recent sculptural works, continuing the artist’s irreverent and bizarre abstractions of both contemporary materials and the human form.  Short but sweet, Wurm’s show takes on his past approaches to figurative sculpture, and recasts it in an increasingly abstract, yet surprisingly cohesive series of sculptures, using the full body of his work to create new pieces that combine his aesthetic endeavors into more nuanced wholes.

Erwin Wurm, Synthesa (Installation View), via Art Observed
Erwin Wurm, Synthesa (Installation View), via Art ObservedThroughout the show, flashes of past work by the artist are easy to detect.  Several of the works, culled from the recent One Minute Forever series, lock the physical, temporary absurdism of his One Minute Sculptures into a permanent form, a sort of archival analog that bears witness to Wurm’s open invitation to create.  Here, however, the artist uses skeletons instead of fully rendered human subjects, a wink at the work’s immortality now that he has eliminated the pieces’ sole living elements.

Erwin Wurm, White Bucket (Synthesa)(2013), via Art Observed
Erwin Wurm, White Bucket (Synthesa) (2013), via Art Observed

Countering these self-aware references are the works of Abstract Sculptures, an outright comical series the places the common frankfurter in a range of romantic, architectural and surreal agglomerations.  In one work, a pair of franks embrace each other in a near-classical pose, earning a well-deserved laugh from passer-by.

Erwin Wurm, Synthesa (Installation View), via Art Observed
Erwin Wurm, Synthesa (Installation View), via Art Observed

But it’s Wurm’s Synthesa series that ultimately impresses here, a fragmented, brusque selection of pieces that continue to work at his synthesis of human and material forms.  Much like previous work that forced the body into grotesque positions, Wurm’s sculptures address a humanity dictated by the presence of buckets, or stretched and scraped to avoid large facets of the body.  Wurm’s human  bubbles and swells, twists and turns into sculptures that are at turns horrifying and hilarious, forcing the viewer into addressing the artist’s dialogue with his selected objects.

Erwin Wurm, Synthesa (Installation View), via Lehmann Maupin
Erwin Wurm, Synthesa (Installation View), via Lehmann Maupin

Throughout, Wurm seems interested in mining his own body of work for a more nuanced final product, one that takes multiple ideas and concepts from his past explorations and positions them on a common ground, allowing new lines of inquiry and conversation to emerge.

Synthesa is on view through April 19th.

Erwin Wurm, Head (Abstract Sculptures) (2013), via Lehmann Maupin
Erwin Wurm, Head (Abstract Sculptures) (2013), via Lehmann Maupin

—R. Thurman

Read more:
Exhibition Site [Lehmann Maupin]
Artist’s Website [Erwin Wurm]
“Erwin Wurm’s Deformed Humanoid Sculptures” [Whitewall]
“Erwin Wurm unveils his latest cast of characters at Lehmann Maupin in New York” [Wallpaper]