Critics’ Picks

Urs Fischer, Untitled, 2011, paraffin wax mixture, pigment, steel, wick, dimensions variable.


Urs Fischer

Kunsthalle Wien Museumsquartier
Museumsplatz 1 & at Karlsplatz
February 17–May 28

Urs Fischer’s exhibition “Skinny Sunrise,” which spans fifteen years of work, won’t wow as previous exhibitions have—there is no hole in the floor, no house of bread. Fischer is known for his excavation and alteration abilities, for his talent of turning the viewing experience into a carnivalesque activity, but this exhibition is impressive for more subtle reasons: It provides a chance to see the artist’s concerns beyond monumentality. While unsettling the stability of a space in a grand way can throw the viewer for a loop, masking any potential aesthetic an artwork may have, that sort of bravado is absent here. Instead, “Skinny Sunrise” inspires new ways of encountering sculpture, prompting questions about the breakdown or magnification of materiality, and what that has to do with the space in which an artwork is perceived.

Untitled, 2011, is a life-size, colored wax candle sculpture of Fischer sitting at a table. As the work slowly melts, the figure’s head, which originally looked slyly at the floor, lumps forward onto the table—an amusing self-effacement, or Fischer’s play on “all that’s solid melts into air”? Comic effect aside, it engages the viewer’s perception of a changing space through the delightful disappearance of the object in it. Elsewhere, in a large, mechanical piece, Untitled (Branches), 2005, two silver-colored branches with melting candles on their ends are suspended by chains and swung in overlapping circles, creating a messy Venn diagram on the floor. Like the medieval-looking exit installed nearby, Untitled (Door), 2006, this work gives us a possible outlet from tortuously serious large-scale sculpture through its steady, droll movement. Fischer may have a reputation as a master of grand gestures, but as these works reveal, he also possesses a delicate, balanced touch, like a butterfly on the horn of a croissant.