Modem Europe Spring-Summer 2014
Cover by Erwin Wurm
The Austrian-born Erwin Wurm (1954) is a leading figure in contemporary art. His exaggerations of everyday objects such as cars, fashion and furniture capture our attention with a humour and wit that only at second glance reveals the profound emotional and cultural significance of these things.
Typical Pop themes such as the loss of hierarchies, the distortion of dimensions and the interpenetration of art and everyday life reappear here as symptoms of a state of being that has now become the norm with profound contemporary relevance. It’s true strength, however, lies in its ability to appropriate and, in turn, challenge the languages and visual codes of a world assumed familiar.
“My work is about the drama of the pettiness of existence, whether one approaches it through philosophy or through a diet. In the end we always draw the short straw”
Wurm accepts the limitations faced by art of making claims at transcendental truth, and lets the work act as a simple but bold statement on the opulence of modern life. He calls into question the validity of an art historical legacy that still casts its shadow over art today, and engages audiences in a satirical, yet fundamentally critical discussion on art’s forms and social criticism alike.
Clothing as a sculptural theme, the second skin, the protective shell, the outline, and also the filling out of a volume is of prime importance in Erwin Wurm’s complex work, which includes performance, video, photography, drawing and classical sculpture, in combination and interdependence.
Time is a further important factor which he explores in all kinds of different ways: from the shortest-lived works , the “dust sculptures”, through large-scale installations, in which fixed architectural components are dressed in knitted pullovers, to the performative “One-Minute Sculptures”.
Wurm understands the concept of sculpture as the pre-modern premise that sculpture is concerned with the alteration of mass and volume. In this respect, he describes humans gaining or losing weight as a sculptural act. His artistic expression, rather like the comic strip or science fiction images, is clear and simple, readily accessible to a wide public. At the same time, he makes use of cynical criticism. Individuality as a projection from outside.