After having visited this exhibition vicariously via social media for a few weeks, expectations formulated. Angular visions of rain, clay creations both miniscule and massive, lounging skeletons among everyday objects suspended in various states… Once inside and truly immersed, others ubiquitous visual interpretations did little to sway the impact of that first hand encounter. Urs Fischer’s two location MOCA Los Angeles retrospective, is a reminder that nothing is a stand in for a first hand experience. This is one that is equal parts poignant and transcendentally thoughtful. Maintained throughout each location’s fully realized world, is a touch of humor with dual support of material interaction and conceptual ingenuity. Spanning over a decade and intermingled in a chronology-be-damned manner, this first ever, United States retrospective of the Swiss-born, New York based Urs, is a future classic.
Descending into Downtown Los Angeles MOCA Grand, depth perception is immediately contorted. Oblong shaky cuts jam through the space, creating a visual sightline into three (of the four) rooms of this locations’ exhibition. “Portrait of a Single Raindrop, 2003” is described as the “creative act of demolition.” Here seemingly crude, swiftly jig-sawed, arches permeate with understated precision. This is not unlike “Untitled (Floor Piece), 2006.” Throughout, the inky vinyl flooring highlights the nearly identical swashes of paint that hovers just above (and sometimes slip into) the floors’ perimeter. The choreographed spontaneity of “Portrait of a Single Raindrop” and “Untitled (Floor Piece),” inspires a discourse of interrelation among all works, creating continuity; but, most importantly a distinctive environment.
In Fischer’s world, the well-positioned interaction of works, sit together as if they’ve always been envisioned this way. Enter one room and see bricks stacked like a house of cards (“Skelett, 1996”). Circumnavigate “Untitled (50 Rocks), 1996,” and find a bread bungalow slowly eroding with cartoonish loaves as beams (“Untitled, (Bread House) 2004-05”), casually oblivious to the diagonally incoming raindrops of, “Horses Dream of Horses, 2004.” Freudian manifestations and art historical nods abound. Urs Fischer’s world is one where the sleek creative procedures, comingle with the crude. Theories are reversed and formulas challenged.
A few blocks east at Geffen Contemporary MOCA, is a separate approach to Urs Fischer’s continued survey. With the assistance of 1,500 volunteers, 308 tons of clay delivered in no less than 12,320 bags is, “Yes, 2011-Ongoing.” Emerging from the floor (crawling along the cable guarding and even at the ticket desk), are thousands of unfired clay sculptures. Here is a collision of anthropomorphic characters, anatomy of all shapes and sizes, tiny cats, half made coil pots even a Jabba the Hutt- to name a few. These figures, in various states of decay, weave throughout the floor space of Geffen Contemporary’s industrial location, creating a narrow labyrinth where patrons rub shoulders with downward cast gazes.
Within the sea of shapes, you can find Fischer’s casual placement of his wax cast candle works. At the point of this visitation, several “Untitled, 2011” pieces slowly melted into half recognized states (with exception of a mostly intact, heavenward writing, Bernini-esque wax statue). The unfired pieces authored on site, are beginning to respond to their own weight. Eventually inertia and the lack of moisture will decompose these creations into its original form, clay dust. It begs to be asked-are these pieces truly complete? With the assistance of so many hands and the product of which remains to be in a perpetual state of fluctuation, Urs Fischer has redefined Geffen Contemporary MOCA as institution into artist studio.
As the individual who once took a jackhammer to the flooring of a gallery, Urs Fischer narrates not just stories but the environment for which these stories exist. Undeniably, each work within this retrospective came from a particular conceptual beginning. Yet, when presented as a whole, the contemplation of these fantastical elements creates a true escapism. This escape leads you to a world where humans are made of congealed substances, skeletons do the downward-facing dog pose, while piercing eyes barely visible behind a zip tied banana, look on. Urs Fischer retrospective at MOCA is certainly worth a visit (or two).
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-Contributed by Bianca Guillen