Walls, Corners, Tubes
Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers are pleased to present new works by Peter Fischli and David Weiss in London. The solo exhibition consists of sculptures created between 2010 and 2012 and are connected to the group of works in unfired clay which the artists displayed at the 54th Venice Biennial in 2011.
In the current exhibition, Fischli and Weiss continue their ongoing observations of the unspectacular, everyday world with objects of unfired clay and black rubber. Their oeuvre consists of sculptures, photographs, films and videos, materials they have been working with since the early 1980s. For example, in the Rubber Sculptures (since 1986), the artists create true-to-life, rubber casts of natural objects and typical items of everyday use, while in the series Plötzlich diese Übersicht ("Suddenly This Overview," 1981) they imaginatively re-enact a revised history of humanity through several hundred sculptures of unfired clay.
In Walls, Corners, Tubes, the artists present a series of objects with geometrical bodies which have the form of walls, corners, and tubes and are made alternately of black rubber and unfired clay. Both the shapes of the objects and their titles such as Wand aus Ton ("Wall of Clay," 2012) or Röhre aus Gummi ("Tube of Rubber," 2012) recall functional elements, such as those often found at building supplies stores. Placed on high, white pedestals, the sculptures appear in various scales which distance them from their origin in the observed forms of reality. On the one hand, their dimensions are oriented towards the human body, so that they automatically relate to it like tools or items for everyday use. On the other hand, they become sculptures which, on a reduced scale, demonstrate an affinity to the objecthood of the Minimal Art of the 1960s.
With black rubber and unfired clay, the objects are made out of two materials which, through the processes of casting and modelling, achieve a transition from formless material into clearly outlined shapes. In realizing these shapes as precisely as possible, the artists explore the physical characteristics of the materials. The interaction of the artists with the materials is brought to light along with their fascination with the difficulty of imparting an exact form to them. In addition, the sculptures focus on the visually and tactilely perceptible contrast between the two different materials. With its synthetic materiality, the black rubber imbues the objects with an opaque, light-reflecting texture which ennobles them and transfers them into the domain of fetishistic commodities of mass industry. In contrast, the raw, unfired, mineral material of clay emphasizes the processual nature of the act of shaping and evokes a delicate, changeable consistency. The working with clay, one of the primary gestures of artists who use their hands and a typical characteristic of amateur culture, stands in contrast to the precise execution of the technique of casting in rubber. Inasmuch as the almost identical forms are created out of the two contrasting materials, there is an evocation of the differences between culture and nature, rapid technical production and slow meticulous craftsmanship, resistance and evanescence.
In the exhibition space, the sculptures are assembled upon the pedestals into a museum-like arrangement which is reminiscent of an ethnographic archive. The walls, corners, and tubes are exhibited as archetypal fragments and artefacts, even though the simplicity of the forms and the laconically formulated titles such as Kurze Ecke aus Gummi ("Narrow Corner of Rubber") or Kleine Röhre aus Ton mit Loch ("Small Tube of Clay with Hole") contrast with the serious atmosphere of the presentation. Oscillating between scientific objectivity and tricky reproduction, the staging, as if in the cabinet of a museum, tells of another experience of the world whose various aspects are isolated, rearranged, and ultimately displayed in a reinterpretation of reality. The configuration likewise includes two objects of unfired clay that make reference to forms of reality which can be specifically designated; Hundenapf ("Dog Bowl," 2012) and Waldboden ("Forest Floor," 2011). The dog bowl is an everyday object which the artists already replicated in 1986-87 in the series of the Rubber Sculptures, and which in 2012 was produced for the first time in unfired clay. The cylindrical shape of the dog bowl approaches the geometrical shape of the other objects, but clearly demonstrates its affiliation with the domain of everyday life. Together with the abstract objects, the two objects subtly usher the entire group back into a domestic framework which is familiar to us.
The Swiss artists Peter Fischli (b.1952) and David Weiss (1946-2012) are currently represented with new plaster figures as well as a projection of their airport photographs at the 13th International Architectural Exhibition, Common Ground, curated by David Chipperfield, at the Venice Architecture Biennial 2012. Their works have been on view at a large number of biennials as well as in extensive retrospectives at Tate Modern, London (2006), at Kunsthaus Zürich (2007), as well as at Deichtorhallen Hamburg (2008). In 2003, the artistic duo were awarded the Golden Lion at the 50th Venice Biennial for their multimedia installation Fragenprojektion ("Questions," 1981-2002). They were represented at documenta X in 1997, and their film Der Lauf der Dinge ("The Way Things Go") was shown at documenta VIII in 1987. In recent years, their works have been presented in solo exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago, USA (2011), at the Sammlung Goetz, Munich (2010), at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan (2010), as well as at the Gwangju Biennial, South Korea (2010). In 2009, Fischli and Weiss presented the solo exhibition Objects on Pedestals at Sprüth Magers London.