Urses minor–at the New Museum

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Urs Fischer: Marguerite de Ponty at the New Museum, the bearish artist’s first U.S. solo show at a major museum, surprised us for what wasn’t there.

Urs Fischer, Service a la francaise, 2009, silk screen on mirrored-chrome steel
Urs Fischer, Service a la francaise, 2009, silk screen on mirrored-chrome steel

This show about reality and unreality in the art world and life, doesn’t quite do it with the panache of some of his bigger, bolder moves. Instead in one installation it looks more like Bloomies on the Bowery, filled with mirrored cubes that reminded us of David Altmejd and Matthew Monahan with merchandising display cases and emphasis on decay. But death where is thy sting-a-ling-aling in these pristine, fussy surfaces? For someone who is clearly such an object maker, these objects in that second floor installation–Service a la francaise–are merch for collectors. We don’t want to fault Fischer for wanting to make some money, but get back to making trouble, Urs, please.

Urs Fischer, Untitled, 2009, cast aluminum and paint
Urs Fischer, Untitled, 2009, cast aluminum and paint

Known for his architectural interventions, Urs’ architectural intervention on the 3rd floor is timid. Lowering the ceiling by two feet doesn’t even feel like a dropped ceiling, let alone an intervention. You have to know a priori that an intervention has taken place. The two objects in the room are swell, however, as objects, and the thought in the room is engaging. The melting piano–made out of aluminum–won our hearts as a great object of surprising materials.

Urs Fischer, Coupadre, 2009, fishing line, croissant and butterfly
Urs Fischer, Coupadre, 2009, fishing line, croissant and butterfly

Same for the moon over Miami croissant with butterfly sculpture, which uses a real croissant and real butterfly. The surreal tableau might have been more satisfying to a person alone in the room–as if encountering some artist holed up in a romantic cave creating romantic art, suggested our compadre Cate.

Urs Fischer, Marguerite de Ponty (right) and others, 2006-08, cast aluminum, 157.5 x 110.25 x 102 3/8 inches (de Ponty dimensions)
Urs Fischer, Marguerite de Ponty (right) and others, 2006-08, cast aluminum, 157.5 x 110.25 x 102 3/8 inches (de Ponty dimensions)

The giant –what to call them?–bone-turds? on four are the most successful pieces in the show. In fact the whole installation on that floor is good. The scale and aluminum material brought to mind Richard Serra, and of course Rodin and Dubuffet’s Hourloupes. Fischer’s method is pure bad boy. Take a piece of clay, give it a squeeze, and then scale it up from hand size to 216 inches tall (that’s the biggest one)–almost 20 feet tall. The pieces all have confusing people-name titles like Miss Satin and the Mallarme pseudonym Marguerite de Ponty.

Urs Fischer, Frozen Pioneer (right), 2009, cast aluminum and paint
Urs Fischer, Frozen Pioneer (right), 2009, cast aluminum and paint

Fischer suggests people in multiple ways, not just with names. There’s a lovely melting street lamp–pink, in cast aluminum, that’s like a person. And a pink birthday cake sculpture hovers above a subway seat–still another person. It’s the pathos of life–from decoration to digestion.

Urs Fischer, The Lock, 2007, cast polyurethan, steel pipes, electromagnets (the cake floats)
Urs Fischer, The Lock, 2007, cast polyurethan, steel pipes, electromagnets (the cake floats)

The whole show is theatrical, a space to walk into and absorb and interact with. Fischer’s big point seems to be about relationships–of people to each other and to the world around them. It’s not that life sucks. It’s just that it has shopping and death, birthdays and skeletons.

Although we found a lot to criticize in this show, we think it’s worth seeing. It’s populist in a more satisfying way than Jeff Koons. It takes into account the glitz and the harsh realities at the same time.

Fischer is an important artist with big bold moves (the catalog, “Urs Fischer: Shovel in a Hole,” shows some of them). On the other hand, the work here is quiet and contemplative compared to his wall smasher at the 2006 Whitney Biennial and his 2007 concrete smasher, You,  at Gavin Brown, his gallery in NY.  You won’t find Mr. Destructo in this particular show.

Tags

marguerite de ponty, new museum, urs fischer

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