Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The silliest art I saw in Los Angeles: Urs Fischer at MOCA

The silliest art I saw in Los Angeles last week was not the James Turrell retrospective at the LA County Museum of Art. Or at least I don't think it was. I'm almost certainly not smart enough to get James Turrell, so I just tiptoed away, shaking my lo-density cerebrum, from LACMA's Broad Contemporary Art Museum and Resnick Pavillion, where oodles of Turrell's work is on-view until 6 April 2014.

Seven or so miles to the west, in the heart of downtown LA, you'll find the city's Museum of Contemporary Art. Perhaps you'll have had a look beforehand at the on-line blurb about MOCA's first-in-U.S. survey of Urs Fischer's work, and learned that:
Fischer's world is fluctuating and unpredictable, and the pleasure that we derive from his sculpture and painting is based on our attraction to and simultaneous repulsion by the dreamlike appearances that he constructs.
Um. So says the curator.

Another point of view: when I visited the Fischer exhibit last week I was ... bored.

See for yourself:


A cloud of rubbery blue raindrops. Okay, maybe that's whimsical (but it's also exasperating and ridiculous as soon as one thinks to compare it, say, to the somber, stately work of art I thought to compare it to: Anti-Mass by Cornelia Parker at San Francisco's de Young).

Looking around, ever so hopefully:

A log-cabin like house made out of loaves of bread, going stale and crumbling into ... breadcrumbs.

A olde-tyme lamppost made to look like a woozy pink set piece in a cartoon.

One of the pieces you don't see behind the camera's-eye view above is a 2012 sculpture called Untitled (Suspended Line of Fruit), made up of a strawberry, a lime, an apple, a grapefruit, a coconut, and a pineapple suspended from the ceiling by nylon fishline so that each piece of fruit hovers just above the floor in a straight line, like Newton's Cradle only more spacious and therefore of no conceivable use. You can see a photo on the artist's website; elsewhere we learn the fruits are replaced when they begin to rot.

Enough said.

Wikipedia tells us:
Fischers subversive approach to art is often considered to be influenced by anti-art movements like Neo-Dada, Lost Art or the Situationist International.
Okay. Anti-art movements, I can begin to see the anti-point.

What does Fischer's gallerist have to say say? Here from the Gagosian Gallery site:
Urs Fischer’s large-scale installations and sculptures posit genres traditionally evoked in painting -- such as portraits, landscapes, nudes, and still lifes -- in a profusion of rich and often impermanent sculptural materials. Whether utilizing foodstuffs (Bread House, 2004) or more self-destructive mediums, such as soft wax that simply melts away, Fischer mines the endless possibilities of a particular material to introduce an additional dimension into the work: that of time. Imbued with their own mortality, his sculptures and installations cultivate the experiential function of art. Fischer incorporates elements of performance and Pop art to create an oeuvre that is distinctly current, and as witty as it is macabre.
"Posit genres"? And how does one "introduce" time into a work that exists in a world in which time is fundamental and affects everything? One can represent time, certainly. Think Salvador Dali. But did the keepers of Vatican City introduce time into Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel frescoes when they burned candles in the chapel, or ... o, never mind.

I guess if I'd ever taken an art history class I'd have flunked it.

To be fair and balanced, I responded more positively to a piece of Fischer's displayed in the middle of the floor of a room in MOCA's permanent collection, and titled A Place Called Novosibirsk:


There's a much better photo on the artist's site, if you crave a clearer look. I don't know why I like this better than Fischer's work in the survey show. Because it's almost figurative, in a witty sort of way? Because it's not fleshy or gross or ugly?

Let's just call it a mystery, and move along.

The L.A. Weekly's Catherine Wagley had this to say, in Urs Fischer Traffics in Clich├ęs -- But That's Not Necessarily a Bad Thing:
Fischer's folk-, pop- and consumer-inspired sculptures and paintings surround you with some of the more banal and stifling tropes from the last two decades -- Photoshop collages, a number of cats, cartoonish tableaux that appear all at once like too many open browser windows -- and offer no escape route.
Well. I'm here to tell you: I escaped.

First alongside California Plaza and down the Angels Flight funicular railway, which travels the length of a single steep block, but only costs a quarter if you've got a metro card:



Then through the Grand Central Market:



And across the street into the Bradbury Building:



Now that's purty...




Related posts on One Finger Typing:
Barry McGee mid-career survey at UC Berkeley art museum
Jim Campbell's "Exploded Views" at SFMOMA
Marilyn Monroe meets the Haymarket Riot: a tale of two Chicago sculptures


Thanks to Alossix, via Wikimedia Commons, for the image of Los Angeles' Grand Central Market. The rest of the photos in this post are the author's.

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