(L) Urs Fischer, Service à la française (left to right: Repo Man; Taxi Driver; Supervisor; Unemployed; Professor), 2009. (R) Urs Fischer, Service à la française (left to right: Dental Hygienist; Repo Man; Landlord; Taxi Driver), 2009. Both silkscreen on mirrored chrome steel, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist; Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York; Sadie Coles HQ, London; and Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zürich. Installation view: “Urs Fischer: Marguerite de Ponty.” Photographs by Benoit Pailley.
Urs Fischer, Untitled, 2009. Mixed mediums, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist; Sadie Coles HQ, London; Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York; and Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zürich. Installation view: “Urs Fischer: Marguerite de Ponty.” Photograph by Benoit Pailley.
On the third floor, pictured above, 10,000 square feet of trompe de l’oeil wallpaper covers every surface of the room, a “maddening exercise in simulation.” The reinterpretation of the gallery’s physical boundaries is subtle, at first, until you notice the slight shadows of periphery details like exit signs, trusswork, and door handles. And as for that whole ambition thing? Installation of the piece required the New Museum to lower the 2nd flood ceiling by two feet. In an arrangement that Times critic Roberta Smith calls “elegant and breathtakingly spare,” a bright lilac rubberlike piano melts to the floor (it’s actually painted aluminum) while a neo-Dada tongue sculpture fills the requisite Urs Fischer hole motif.
Installation view of “Urs Fischer: Marguerite de Ponty” (left to right: David, the Proprietor; Frozen Pioneer). Courtesy the artist; Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York; Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zürich; and Sadie Coles HQ, London. Photograph by Benoit Pailley.
We actually saw the fourth floor gallery space first, saving the second-floor army for last as the capstone of “Marguerite de Pony.” Or, in the art critic jargon of Roberta Smith, “This creates a progression of thesis, antithesis and synthesis, or, more precisely, form, space and, finally, form and space, along with changing notions of size and scale.” Specifically, launching into the universe of Urs from the top down allows an initial introduction to a forest of massively scaled boulders, sculptures that look weighty but manage to float in the gallery space. At once reminiscent of skeleton bones (a pelvis here, jawbone there), fossils, and Rorschach blots, this is the outsider art of Dubuffet mixed with the ambiguous readymades of Duchamp. (Case in point, the accompanying found object subway bench against the west wall.)
While the New Museum has experienced some growing pains in the past — the first group show was notoriously tenuous — installing new work by the ringleader of today’s experimental art scene is a step in the right direction. We aren’t talking a vapid mid-career retrospective from the likes of Elizabeth Peyton, or the prevalent garbage-as-art aesthetic of the downtown gallery scene, as embodied in the work of Agathe Snow. Urs Fischer — young, hot, and European, all of which makes for good press — has a career promising enough to merit serious kudos for the New Museum. Whether or not the NuMu will rise above its current status as the non-profit gallery de rigeur of the Lower East Side? That remains to be seen.
“How the New Museum Committed Suicide with Banality” by William Powhida. (Click through for a larger image.)
Modern Art Notes also reports that the next issue of The Art Newspaper will also examine the “NuMu/fluff shows situation.” Cue doom music and stay tuned.