Beloved of collectors
You have to hear him talk about art history. Urs Fischer (born in 1973), the Swiss artist based in New York, beloved of contemporary art collectors who exhibit him all over, from Peter Brant in Connecticut to Eugenio Lopez in Mexico next year, via François Pinault in Venice, Maja Hoffmann in Arles (see the report here), Tony Salame right now in Beirut, and Sheikha Mayassa at Doha’s airport, is constantly drawing inspiration from history and from stories which he collects in his head, like the tattoos he collects on his body.
Take Rodin, for instance, since Urs has made a remarkable and also entertaining sculpture, a plasticine replica of a marble version of the famous work “The Kiss”.
He observed that this sculpture – which thanks to him we can finally touch, since Fischer’s version allows us to merrily destroy this icon of art history and emblem of love – plays a key role within Rodin’s oeuvre.
Propelled into posterity
He points out that in the French sculptor’s body of work, despite a mass of highly experimental pieces which situate him within modernity, it’s actually only a very small number of more classical creations like “The Kiss” (Le Baiser) or “The Thinker” (Le Penseur) which have propelled him into posterity (he did not employ this word).
In Urs’s view, it was “The Kiss” and “The Thinker” that afforded Rodin the opportunity to have such a major museum in his name in Paris.
Urs greedily ingests all kinds of stories and histories with relish.
He also knows the story of the sculptor Medardo Rosso, who accused Rodin of plagiarism.
Moving through narratives
He can move with ease through these narratives, past and present, which populate his imagination. He is not overly talkative, so he skilfully regurgitates them mostly in three dimensions.
The first of his works to make a public impact was displayed at the Venice Biennale in 2011: a replica of The Rape of the Sabine Women, originally carved in marble in the 16th century by Giambologna, which Urs copied in the form of a giant candle accompanied by the caption “dimensions variable”. Because, of course, the candle burns down.
Go up in smoke
He then created numerous variations of these works in paraffin that go up in smoke. Self-portraits, portraits of his friends… He tries to capture the essence of those close to him through this malleable material, which slowly melts once a match strikes the wick arranged in the hair of the wax figure.
Gagosian gallery in Paris
His latest version of this kind of work is on display at the Gagosian gallery in Paris until 20 December.
Leonardo di Caprio
Here we see “Leo” – Hollywood movie star Leonardo DiCaprio – in two versions that together form a single piece.
On the left there’s the pink Leo, who is embracing his mother.
But from out of his back emerges another Leo, this time in blue, who stands facing and watching his father, to the right. Pink for the fusional mother.
Blue for the distant father, who is all black inside. Because when the candle burns down it leaves this dark substance behind. The innovative psychological dimension of this Leo and his Siamese twin opens up many new possibilities for interesting stories, which are hinted at here.
I met Urs Fischer outside a café just near the Gagosian gallery where he likes to go. He was cool, mischievous, focused and fast, as always.
A light way in figuration
He concluded: “The candle is a light way of working in figuration.” I read that he’s also said: “What I hate about doing art is it never gives me lasting satisfaction.” Making artworks that don’t last, but which can be reborn from their own ashes, might be the antidote.
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