Currently on view at Reena Spaulings in New York, artist Peter Fischli has brought together a body of small-scale works under the title Cans, Bags and Boxes. Marking an elaboration and subtle reinterpretation of a body of works originally shown in Los Angeles last year, the exhibition emphasizes Fischli’s razor-sharp wit and roving creative vision.
Cans, Bags and Boxes brings Fischli’s continued interest in detritus and the liminal to bear once more, taking place on a Lower East Side that has seen its fair share of the aforementioned objects scattered across its streets and sidewalks over the years. The location and subject matter is a notable underpinning to the show, marking the artist’s work in mining the space between the world of fine art and the spaces just on the other side of the white wall. Much in the same way that his collaborations over the years with David Weiss rendered a series of pieces resembling the tools and trappings of art handlers setting up the gallery for an exhibition, these pieces bring a space just outside the gallery to bear.
True, these works are distinctly more in line with the classical history of the avant-garde readymade; small, manageable objects on pedestals that underline their status as art objects through this placement. Yet Fischli’s work takes the work one step further, emphasizing that the pedestals themselves are manufactured from a paper mache of sorts. His pedestals, and the objects they hold, are in fact simulations of the forms that they aim to both represent and replace. Rather than merely repeating the actions of the historical avant-garde, Fischli’s work in the show returns to ground zero, and then builds back up from that point.
The works, as a result, are equally noteworthy as autobiographical elements of sorts, often referencing the artist’s work over the years, and, in some cases, moving beyond his formal career as an artist, A series of lithographs on view include one repainted from a watercolor the artist made when he was eleven, reproducing his original work from within the bounds of the art world. Almost as if Fischli was riffing on the age-old line “my child could do that” spoken over and over in galleries around the globe, his piece seems to take the case in reverse: this child did, and kept creating until the piece ended up on view in a gallery.
This sense of the exhibition as a catch-all space for the artist’s aesthetic experiments echoes throughout the show, with this diverse body of works unified under a shared concept of space as context. While Fischli’s subtle visual jokes and sculptural inversions are a fine starting point, what emerges from the exhibition is a broader view of the gallery, and how space itself ultimately focuses and defines the pieces placed within it.
The artist’s work is on view through September 23rd.
— D. Creahan