Critics’ Picks

View of “Mermaid, Pig, Bro w/ Hat” 2014.

View of “Mermaid, Pig, Bro w/ Hat” 2014.

New York

Urs Fischer

Gagosian | 104 Delancey Street
104 Delancey Street
April 3–May 23, 2014

Have you seen the Urs Fischer in the old Chase? That is what my friend asked as we walked up Delancey toward the bridge. No, I had not. We crossed over and entered the former bank through spray-painted doors. For the next twenty minutes, we proceeded (under the amiable gaze of two suited guards) to traipse through the branch like happy kids. The space still bears corporate insignia, institutional carpet, ghastly lighting, and the basic architectural skeleton of its past self.

Into this capitalist graveyard—temporarily operated by Gagosian Gallery—Urs Fischer has deposited mermaid pig bro w/ hat, an exuberant display of twenty-one sculptures, “externalized” from his massive 2013 installation, YES, at the Geffen Contemporary. Produced on-site with the cheerful labor of fifteen hundred unpaid participants (the press release assures us that, of the works, “Fischer has, for the most part, selected some that he initiated then left open to his collaborators”), these collectively created clay pieces reappear on the Lower East Side, now cast in bronze and, if they are lucky, silver and gold-plated. The sculptures are hilarious. A squat little boy sticks out his tongue behind the relics of a night-deposit vault. A matador takes a pig from behind in the break room. In place of a teller stands an oversized bust of a Revolutionary War hero. The limelight belongs to the delimbed and skull-crushed mermaid-as-fountain in the lobby, crudely dribbling water from her neckline. A few sorry coins languish in the pool beneath her tail, the edges of which are beginning to oxidize.

The exhibition has an uptown counterpart; Fischer’s last supper is currently inaugurating Gagosian’s newest Park Avenue gallery. Divorced from its downtown context, the work itself does not seem worth the follow-up trip. At best, the sculptures are admirable because of their heft and amusing due to their obvious low and highbrow mix. That said, they also are rife with chauvinism and shallow, insular cultural “critique.” One might assume that the artist, to his credit, is laughing all the way to the bank.