PRINT March 1989


FRANZ WEST'S SCULPTURES ORBIT around opposing poles. Their initial impact is of a kind of bodily impurity—the forms are amorphous, the surfaces crusty, even coarse. Yet there is also an underlying elegance in these works, even a hyperelegance, as if their blemishes of the skin had erupted from some dazzling interior charge. They are at once Caliban and Ariel.

To combat the “cleanly” aspects of Modernism—the Modernism of even, unornamented lines and coolly ideated forms—is an old trait in Viennese art, which, from Hermann Nitsch’s and Otto Mühl’s physical-theater Aktionismus work back through Secession painters such as Gustav Klimt, Richard Gerstl, and Egon Schiele, has posited esthetic good hygiene as anti-body and therefore anti-life. To varying degrees, such artists consciously turned away from social reality in favor of a quasi-autistic, narcissistic focus on the self and on the body—a

to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the PRINT EDITION of the March 1989 issue for $17 or the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.