With the opening of FIAC this past month, Gagosian Gallery filled its ground-floor space in Paris with new work by Urs Fischer, including an impressive new candle work by the artist depicting actor and activist Leonardo DiCaprio. Continuing the artist’s enigmatic engagement with the aura of fame and fortune, his new candle sculpture marks a return to his interest in collectors and art world influencers, turning their visages into slowly melting piles of wax.
Across the expanse of his oeuvre, Fischer has regularly drawn on art historical genres and motifs with a distinctly self-aware, comical approach, often utilizing concepts of creation and destruction as a way to poke holes in the work’s surface, and to turn the viewer away from a sense of object permanence. This is perhaps best emphasized in his candle sculptures, massive hunks of wax carved into lifelike renditions of figures like art patron and collector Dasha Zhukova or artist Julian Schnabel. Lighting the wick on these new bodies, Fischer allows them to slowly melt down, dripping puddles across the floor of the gallery and making for a comical commentary on time and duration, persona and presentation. Embracing transformation and decay while resounding with poetic contradictions, Fischer’s art excavates the potential of its materials and media, producing joyful disorientation and sinister bewilderment.
Fischer’s newest candle portrait, Leo (George & Irmelin) (2019), depicts DiCaprio with his parents, George DiCaprio and Irmelin Indenbirken. Cast entirely in wax, the family is posed in mid-action: George gestures while conversing with Leo, as Irmelin holds Leo in her loving embrace. It’s a subtle variation of the artist’s work in this mode, posing the actor in multiple modes and poses as if to symbolize a range of personalities or various attributes, a sort of classical allusion to the Renaissance mural, rendered in wax, and fading away slowly. Leo (George & Irmelin) will melt slowly over the course of the exhibition, its original composition transmuted into a form dictated by the wayward laws of physics. Captivating in their materiality and haunting in their implications, Fischer’s candles serve as both portraits of—and meditations on—the passing of time. Elaborating on traditions of memento mori, they remind viewers of the transience of life, beauty, and even art itself.
The show also includes a series of the artist’s embellished photo compositions, leaving massive streaks of paint over images printed on alumninum panels. Massive, streaky arrangements of material, his pieces serve as a fittingly turbulent backdrop for the subtle decomposition going on in the center of the space.
The show closes December 20th.
— D. Creahan
Gagosian Gallery [Exhibition Site]