Rachel Smith Althof
Urs Fischer: Marguerite de Ponty at the New Museum
Urs Fischer: Marguerite de Ponty, the culmination of fours years of work, is recently showed at The New Museum. Fischer was
given three floors of The New Museum to show for his first large-scale solo exhibition in an American museum. After reading
mixed reviews about this exhibition, I am, once again, thinking about the tenuous relationship between artist and viewer as both
negotiate the meaning of the mystifying conduit between the two: art.
Art is situated in a context: the context in which the artist makes it, the context in which the viewer views it, and the flux of
contexts in which it lives. Context, much like art, is ill defined; this is merely a description of the context in which my visual
experience at Urs Fischer: Marguerite de Ponty is embedded.
In Gallery 2, there are over fifty mirrored chrome steel boxes with silkscreened images on them. These boxes populate the
large space rather tightly, and viewers can work their way throughout the boxes. Each point that you stand in the space
provides an entirely different perspective to view. The visual image also changes as the reflections of other viewers appear
and disappear from view on the mirrored boxes, juxtaposed with the silk-screened images. The random nature of the visual
experience is certainly a derivative of Dadaism.
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|Photo: Rachel Smith Althof
Urs Fischer, Service à la française, 2009. 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.” Photograph by
The silk-screened images are photographs taken in collaboration with a professional photographer. Each object was shot
many times with a different area in focus. Several photographs are superimposed using Photoshop to create one final
photographic image that is entirely in focus. Reminiscent of Chuck Close’s early portraiture work, the hyper-realistic
photographs exhibit sharpness not naturally possible.
In the corner of Gallery 2 stands “4:15 p.m. and 4:15 p.m.” There are two crutches, standing too far apart, bent out of
shape. They are twisted and warped, seemingly non-functional, the color of green scrubs. They seem to be made of a very
soft material, much unlike a regular pair of crutches.
Upstairs in Gallery 3, there is a soft piano, in a playfully pastel purple. The piano was cast in excruciating detail, rendered in
a soft material, warped and then completed for display.
Similarly, in Gallery 4, there stands a soft street lamp. At first glance, I think of Beauty and the Beast, however, in
relationship to the other soft objects, I experience more. The soft objects are indeed surreal, reminiscent of Salvador Dalí’s
The Persistence of Memory, however, I also think of Claes Oldenberg’s soft sculptures.
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.
The largest, and most minimalist installation of this show is in Gallery 3. “Last Call Lascaux” is wallpaper covering every square inch of
the gallery’s walls. The wallpaper is printed with a photographic image of every square inch of the gallery walls. The wallpaper is pasted
onto the wall in which the image depicts. The wall color changes to a muted purple hue, due to the lighting captured in the photographic
process. The title of this work refers to the cave wall paintings in France, the tromp l’oeil technique is homage to a long lineage of
artwork, and Andy Warhol comes to mind when discussing wallpaper in a gallery.
Other large-scale pieces included in this show are aluminum cast organic forms in Gallery 4. The forms are impending, the concave
areas seem to envelope me as I move carefully around with my head tilting in all directions to make sense of the megalithic masses before
me. Ironically, Fischer squeezed his hand around the original forms made from moist clay to create these shapes that now loom before
viewers. (The clay was scanned using a 3-D scanner, and then the large aluminum was cast from the molds made from the clay scans.)
Like Duchamp’s infamous Female Fig Leaf, these aluminum forms illustrate the visual memory of something, or someone, interacting with
a malleable medium.
“The Lock” is a subway seat, gym bag and a floating cake; it might be the most poignant statement regarding artists, viewers and art.
The bag and the cake are both magnetized so that the cake is suspended in air by a magnetic field. The cake hovers, and once in a
while, it slowly spins, changing perspectives
Urs Fischer, The Lock, 2007. Cast polyurethane, steel pipes, and electromagnets, 72 1⁄2 x 29 3⁄4 x 21 5⁄8 in (184 x 75.5 x 55 cm).
Collection Amalia Dayan. Installation view: “Urs Fischer: Marguerite de Ponty.” Photograph by Benoit Pailley.