Washington, DC

Wolfgang Laib

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Wolfgang Laib, whose largest US retrospective to date began its tour at the Hirshhorn in October, is an artist of particular import for a historical moment when “sensation” and “brilliance” have become merely hyperbolic synonyms for “the new.” What Laib’s work offers is sensation in the purely perceptual sense of the word, a kind of ecological ethic that aspires to supplant what the artist sees as the rational, mediated mind-set of Western culture. It is brilliant, but its brilliance is of a decidedly organic, Zen cast.

Laib was trained in medicine in his native Germany but turned to art in the early ’70s after several trips to India. His first endeavor consisted of a series of carved and polished egg-shaped stones he called “Brahmandas,” after the Hindu symbol of creation. Soon thereafter he created a series of “milkstones,” which put him on the art-world map, at least in Europe. The

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