Critics’ Picks

Wolfgang Stoerchle, Peter & Wolfgang Stoerchle arriving in Los Angeles from Toronto on horseback, 1962, 8 mm transferred to digital, color, sound, 1 minute 45 seconds.


Wolfgang Stoerchle

Air de Paris
32 rue Louise Weiss
March 17–June 15, 2019

Wolfgang Stoerchle’s video Penis with Disney Characters, 1970–72, is pretty simple: A flaccid penis, the artist’s, casually births one miniature Disney character—Goofy, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck—after another. At the same time, those looped four minutes of repeated nonaction contain the curled narrative of a whole era. The Sony Portapak used by the artist, who was born in 1944 and died in 1976 in a car crash, was a staple of early video art, and connects him to Nam June Paik, Peter Campus, and Bruce Nauman. In 1970, Stoerchle had just started teaching at John Baldessari’s Post-Studio Art program at the California Institute of Arts. This peculiar piece already exposes his urge to deflate an art world he would later flee—the last years of his short life were mostly spent in a spiritual retreat in Mexico. Disney, notoriously, was the financial backing for CalArts, and a subject of intense dissent among many artists of the time.

Among those was Paul McCarthy, who would, through the exhibition “And Gravity” (1996–97), introduce the French scene to three then equally unknown artists: Stoerchle, Bas Jan Ader, and Guy de Cointet. For Florence Bonnefous and Edouard Mérino, founders of Galerie Air de Paris, the show proved impactful. Their current, smallish survey of Stoerchle, curated by Alice Dusapin—author of a monography to be published at the end of the year—includes four cathode-ray monitors showing eight video works. The roughly two-minute Peter & Wolfgang Stoerchle arriving in Los Angeles from Toronto on horseback, 1962, documents the end of the artist’s picaresque travel from Toronto to Los Angeles, a trip that he would only later claim as his first-ever performance. By shooting only the end of a ten-month trip and calling it his debut, he retroactively inscribes deception and escapism into his innovative moving image practice, obliquely anticipating the perils of our era of total visibility.