On this month at Garth Greenan Gallery in New York, artist B. Wurtz presents Monuments, featuring a number of the artist’s playful sculptures and mixed media works deconstructing elements of scale and monumentality and marking the artist’s first show at the gallery. Known for his repurposing of everyday flotsam into joyous, humorous, and beautiful sculptural objects. The works in the presentation, spanning the past four decades of Wurtz’s career, take the language of the everyday, and transpose it, creating strange tensions and relationships between materials.
The artist’s work is always, at its core, centered around challenging hierarchies and systems of meaning inherent in the object, and here turns the chosen materials towards new, complex series of interrelated structures. Scale and form add additional wrinkles, with the viewer contending with monumentality of these new systems, and move around them with the same sense of meditative caution.
The sculptures, pleasing in their visual immediacy, tend to reward even momentary reflection. In HA HA (1976), Wurtz encloses a handful of crumpled, Post-It-sized papers inside a clear plastic box. A note on top of the box discloses the work’s eponymous title “HA HA,” along with its author and date of completion. Despite scribbles that threaten to obscure it, the paper is still legible, unlike its crumpled cousins that are locked inside. There’s a certain pleasure to contemplating the work: Are the locked papers discarded jokes? Or are they promising ideas lost to relentless self-ridicule? The diminutive box portends a drama of creativity and self-doubt.
Wurtz’s forms are constantly probing at the nature of abstraction. In Untitled (1994), two metal hooks anchor wires that hold painted canvas flags. The flags are similar in pattern, but chromatically opposed. A narrative drama materializes with each hook resembling a boisterous partisan. The personification is typical of Wurtz’s particular taste for the mock heroic, with two identical hooks absurdly locked in ideological or literal battle. In the work, abstraction and representation, often discussed as opposites, are revealed to be dimensions of the same phenomenon.
The show closes July 29th.
– D. Creahan
B. Wurtz at Garth Greenan [Exhibition Site]