People seem to fear art. Art has always been a word for this thing that can’t be rationalized; when you see or hear something that you struggle to explain. But that’s its strength, of course, that’s what the word “art” is for.
Urs Fischer mines the potential of materials—from clay, steel, and paint to bread, dirt, and produce—to create works that disorient and bewilder. Through scale distortions, illusion, and the juxtaposition of common objects, his sculptures, paintings, photographs, and large-scale installations explore themes of perception and representation while maintaining a witty irreverence and mordant humor.
Fischer began his artistic career studying photography at the Schule für Gestaltung in Zurich. He later lived in London and Los Angeles, and shared a studio with Rudolf Stingel in both Berlin and New York. Themes of absence and presence, as well as the processes of art production, pervade his work, in which Fischer makes use of tables, chairs, shadows, and light to explore distortion and anthropomorphism. In Stuhl mit (1995–2001), bulbous, fabric-covered legs merge with a wooden chair, and in Studies for chairs for individual seating positions (1993), the absence of a human body is suggested by a sawdust and rubber mold draped over the furniture. Food is also a major element in Fischer’s work. Rotting, melting, and crumbling, and placed in juxtaposition with permanent materials like metal, bricks, and mortar, it serves as a memento mori; Rotten Foundation (1998) comprises a brick structure built on a foundation of rotting produce; Untitled (Bread House) (2004–05), a Swiss chalet constructed entirely of loaves of bread, was left to be eaten by parakeets; and in the Problem Paintings (2011–), portraits mounted on aluminum panels are obscured by images of eggs, peppers, and kiwis, as well as twisted bolts and half-smoked cigarettes.
In 2009 Fischer had his first large-scale solo presentation in an American museum, at New York’s New Museum; the exhibition featured a series of immersive installations and hallucinatory environments including cityscapes and mirrored labyrinths. At the Venice Biennale in 2011, his wax copy of Giambologna’s late-sixteenth-century sculpture Rape of the Sabine Women slowly melted, looming over another candle depicting an ordinary man wearing glasses and a sport coat. The candle works, which Fischer has produced since 2001, attest to his mastery of entropy, as well as his simultaneous incorporation and rejection of tradition.
Fischer had his first solo show with Gagosian in 2012. The following year for his exhibition Yes at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA Los Angeles, 1,400 volunteers produced unfired clay sculptures in the weeks leading up to the exhibition. As soon as Fischer has accomplished one material feat, he embarks on another, in ways that are complicated and playful, messy and perfected.
Extended through December 15, 2018
September 12–December 15, 2018
Davies Street, London
PLAY with choreography by Madeline Hollander
September 6–October 13, 2018
West 21st Street, New York
Uncanny Delights: Sculpture by John Chamberlain, Urs Fischer, and Charles Ray
Catalyzed by the exhibition Crushed, Cast, Constructed: Sculpture by John Chamberlain, Urs Fischer, and Charles Ray, Alice Godwin examines the legacy and development of a Surrealist ethos in selected works from three contemporary sculptors.
Urs Fischer: Lives of Forms
In his introduction to the catalogue for Urs Fischer’s exhibition The Lyrical and the Prosaic, at the Aïshti Foundation in Beirut, curator Massimiliano Gioni traces the material and conceptual tensions that reverberate throughout the artist’s paintings, sculptures, installations, and interventions.
Fruit and Vegetables: Francesco Bonami on Urs Fischer
Fruit and vegetables are a recurring motif in Urs Fischer’s visual vocabulary, introducing the dimension of time while elaborating on the art historical tradition of the vanitas. Here, curator Francesco Bonami traces this thread through the artist’s sculptures and paintings of the past two decades.
Five Books: Urs Fischer
Urs Fischer talks about reading during the pandemic lockdown, sharing five books—both fiction and nonfiction—that he has turned to while in self-isolation.
Urs Fischer: Leo
Journalist and curator Judith Benhamou-Huet leads a tour of the exhibition Urs Fischer: Leo at Gagosian, Paris.
Urs Fischer and choreographer Madeline Hollander speak with novelist Natasha Stagg about the ways in which choreographic experimentation and an interest in our ability to project emotion onto objects led to the one-of-a-kind project PLAY.
Visions of the Self: Jenny Saville on Rembrandt
Jenny Saville reveals the process behind her new self-portrait, painted in response to Rembrandt’s masterpiece Self-Portrait with Two Circles.
Gagosian Quarterly Winter 2018
The Winter 2018 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available. Our cover this issue comes from High Times, a new body of work by Richard Prince.
Who is choreographing whom?
PLAY, currently on view at Gagosian on West 21st Street in New York, is a work by Urs Fischer in which nine office chairs move through the gallery and interact with visitors. Artist and choreographer Madeline Hollander worked with Fischer and a team of programmers and animators to create various gestures, movements, and behavior sequences for the chairs. Gagosian’s Angela Brown sat down to talk with Hollander about this process.
Urs Fischer: Sotatsu
Urs Fischer and Francesco Bonami sat down with the Gagosian Quarterly to discuss Sōtatsu, a new painting in nine parts.
Urs Fischer: Things
In midtown Manhattan, a new sculpture by Urs Fischer, entitled Things, was debuted in May 2018. Fischer and international curator, Francesco Bonami, discuss this unique exhibition with the Gagosian Quarterly.
The Bigger Picture
Derek Blasberg speaks with Diane Brown, president and founder of RxArt, and with contributing artists Dan Colen, Urs Fischer, and Jeff Koons about the transformative power of visual art.
Crushed, Cast, Constructed
Sculpture by John Chamberlain, Urs Fischer, and Charles Ray
Thursday, July 23, 2020, 12pm EDT (5pm BST)
Join Gagosian for a virtual tour of Crushed, Cast, Constructed: Sculpture by John Chamberlain, Urs Fischer, and Charles Ray, an exhibition on view at Gagosian, Grosvenor Hill, London, through July 31. Gagosian’s Alice Godwin will discuss the three artists’ divergent sculptural processes, examining their individual approaches and identities with respect to materials and methods. To join, register at zoom.us.
Charles Ray, Tractor, 2003–04 © Charles Ray, courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery
June 24–30, 2020
Urs Fischer mines the potential of materials—from clay, steel, and paint to bread, dirt, and produce—to create works that disorient and bewilder. Through scale distortions, illusion, and the juxtaposition of common objects, his paintings, sculptures, photographs, and large-scale installations explore themes of perception and representation while maintaining a witty irreverence and mordant humor.
Photo: Chad Moore
Basel Online 2020
In our most significant online sales presentation to date, Gagosian unveils important works by modern and contemporary masters through two separate online platforms—Gagosian Online and Art Basel Online. These individually curated selections offer collectors direct access to artworks of the highest caliber. To experience the presentation in its entirety, viewers will need to visit both gagosian.com and artbasel.com. The works on gagosian.com will rotate every forty-eight hours, for a total of five cycles.
Helen Frankenthaler, Orange Underline, 1963 © 2020 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Opening this Week
La rivoluzione siamo noi
Collezionismo italiano contemporaneo
September 26, 2020–January 10, 2021
XNL Piacenza Contemporanea, Italy
XNL Piacenza Contemporanea, a new cultural center dedicated to contemporary art, presents its inaugural exhibition, whose title translates to We Are the Revolution: Contemporary Italian Collecting. The show features more than 150 works from eighteen of the most important art collections in Italy. Giuseppe Penone is creating a site-specific piece for the exhibition, and work by Urs Fischer, Ellen Gallagher, Piero Manzoni, and Andy Warhol is also included.
Giuseppe Penone, Propagazione (Propagation), 2020 © Giuseppe Penone/2020 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo: Mauro Del Papa
The Lyrical and the Prosaic
Through October 31, 2020
Aïshti Foundation, Beirut
This exhibition brings together a selection of recent works by Urs Fischer, which are shown alongside works by the artist from the Aïshti Collection and a series of new installations, paintings, and interventions. Evident everywhere in the exhibition is Fischer’s fascination with subversions of scale and with shifts from the monumental to the minuscule, and, as the show’s title suggests, from the sublime to the prosaic.
Installation view, Urs Fischer: The Lyrical and the Prosaic, Aïshti Foundation, Beirut, October 20, 2019–October 31, 2020. Artwork © Urs Fischer. Photo: Stefan Altenburger
The Paradox of Stillness
Art, Object, and Performance
Opening May 15, 2021
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
Featuring works from the early twentieth century to today, The Paradox of Stillness examines the notion of stillness as both a performative and a visual gesture. More than sixty-five artists present object-based art, pictures, and actions staged by live performers to test the boundaries between stillness and motion, mortality and aliveness, and the still life and the living picture. Work by Urs Fischer, Piero Manzoni, Cindy Sherman, Tom Wesselmann, and Franz West is included.
Urs Fischer, Untitled, 2003 © Urs Fischer
Works from the Brant Foundation
November 13, 2019–September 3, 2020
Brant Foundation, New York
Bringing together more than twenty artists integral to the Brant Foundation’s collection, this exhibition offers a glimpse into the multifaceted practices of artists whose work Peter M. Brant has collected over the past fifty years. Work by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Urs Fischer, Mike Kelley, Adam McEwen, Richard Prince, Andy Warhol, and Franz West is included.
Installation view, Third Dimension: Works from the Brant Foundation, Brant Foundation, New York, November 13, 2019–September 3, 2020. Artwork, front to back: © Urs Fischer, © Dan Flavin