When Attitude Becomes Immaterial
Urs Fischer at the New Museum
From 10/21/09 until 2/7/10
The Urs Fischer show at The New Museum displays what a psyched -out Michael Fried might call present -less grace. Fried’s more recent ideas about images created “to be looked at” (or what I would call “looking-ness”) point to a certain post modern histrionic preening before an ironic mirror that reflexively inoculates us from cynically eyeballing art and saves us from reaching a creative dead end.
The work in this show and its presentation are evidence of a dearness towards objects in a physical world quickly becoming distilled evaporate. The residue of experience lies in the souvenir of art. The insistent reference to the substance of objects in Fischer’s work is a paradoxical study in the phenomenology of that which is disappeared.
The large “Untitled” aluminum castings on the fourth floor of the Museum float anachronistically like the hippo ballerinas in Disney’s Fantasia. The tour -de -force fabrication of these pieces is fore grounded but is (perhaps too) knowingly undercut by the formlessness and offhand origins of their making. They were scaled up from hand squeezed clay sculptures but the form they take when transmogrified into pneumatic lumpy figures sometimes resemble gigantic twisting Venus de Willendorfs or even giant animal scat. They are curiously lacking in phenomenal presence though, and this is where I think the artist’s work becomes interesting. How does a dialogue between the monumental object become a phenomenal black hole? I think all of the artist’s poetics resides inside this lack of weight and present-ness. His sculptures make Koon’s feel like Rodins in comparison.
This show is wildly uneven though. A few precious pieces ruin the vibe established by the aluminum blobs and the spectacular mirrored photo-archive of pathetic objects on the 2nd floor. The corny illusionism in The Lock 2007 or “subway seat, bag birthday cake piece” is just dumb, but in a bad way. Or Cumpadre 2007, A hanging croissant with a precious butterfly alighting upon it that is saccharine beyond belief. The same goes for his floppy purple piano. These are the kind of things collectors just eat up, but this artist is definitely in need of an assistant who can tell him when his stuff actually stinks.This kind of cheeky poetics is for the birds.
The aforementioned cubistic/ minimalist photo silk- screened archive, entitled Service a la Francaise, is of very specific objects that the artist has chosen to assemble into a striking ensemble work. It recasts the emptiness of the aluminum blobs. Initially I read the work as an update on the shiny pop logic of Koons’ mirrored bunny married with a left- handed Swiss kozy kitsch. There are elements of this blend, but a more extended experience with the room yielded a more sad and truly witty specificity that touched a real longing in me. Perhaps the artist’s choice of objects related to my own inclination to project pathos onto pop detritus such as a CD Cleaner Kits or obsolete computers. These objects are recent garbage of once cutting edge technology, therefore chillingly dead- present in their insistent obsolescence. The entire installation of differently scaled souvenirs, hardware supplies, bic lighters, rotten pears, arcane Italian Novels, broken, fake -Meissen obelisks, emanates a collective sigh of melancholy at the passing of the reality of these things.
The canny idea of printing of top and side views of these things on mirrored steel cubes underlines the immateriality of their objecthood. I was reminded of Cady Noland’s similarly blank sculptural aesthetic in her aluminum cut outs of American myth. There is something real here, a longing for present-ness together with an awareness of its futile pursuit in our present moment. The pathetic impulse toward stuff overwhelms our capacity to feel it. The re-photographed and wallpapered image of one of the museums galleries in -situ recalls the work of conceptual/ minimalist artist William Anastasi, a progenitor of Fischer’s who probably had a very different take on the immateriality of experience.
Fischer is an interesting artist in that he seems to be very aware of the nature of the art object as contingent in a world where our post modern self is so thoroughly parsed out of being, where the sculptor is a lonely hunter because his prey no longer exists.