Franz West

Franz West’s exhibition “Plakatentwürfe” (Poster designs) began with instructions from the artist: “As in my earlier Paßstücke,” West states in a wall work directly next to the entrance, “the designs are not merely for reception but rather for interaction.” At once both invitation and interpretation, his introduction marks a shift in emphasis. The Paßstücke—amorphously suggestive hybrids between sculpture, prosthetics, and cult objects—shed light, by virtue of their various use-possibilities, on the relationship between art object and recipient; the “Poster Designs,” 2000—works on paper, wood, and foam that refer to the current show as well as to past exhibitions by West and his friends—make reference more to the gallery space. They are intended to provoke a different relationship between artwork, exhibition space, and recipient—an agenda West shares with the various artistic endeavors to undermine or reconfigure the conventional white cube and the conditions of reception that it implies, but which he pursues with his own sense of irony.

The entry room showed, in West’s words, two “examples of hanging methods”: Organized in groups of three or four, in one case the works were hung from the top edge of the wall; in the adjoining room some were placed on the floor, leaning against a wall “specifically prepared for that purpose” by Georgian artist Tamuna Sirbiladze. The installation was completed with a circular seat-sculpture in the middle of the room. With its reference to the seating provided in nineteenth-century museums, and despite its ambivalent status between art-object and use-object, Puf functioned as a reminder of a contemplative approach to art and thus stood in counterpoint to the possibility of rearranging the works—an invitation the gallerist underscored by pointing out the gloves laid out for that purpose.

This exhibition joined several familiar elements of West’s artistic approach: interaction, in this case defined as the possibility of a partial rearrangement; ironic new uses of conventional forms of presentation, a theme clearly recognizable in West’s concurrent retrospective at the Museum fin Neue Kunst ZKM in Karlsruhe; and, finally, the notion of recycling, which provided the name “Recyclages” for his exhibition at the FRAC Champagne-Ardenne in 1997. Accordingly, in his “Poster Designs,” West revisits the themes of his work to date, completing, painting over, combining, and contextualizing it anew. Thus the depiction of a Paßstück in Plakatentwurf (Galerie Nächst St. Stephan) serves as a reminder that West first publicly exhibited a large selection of his such works at this Viennese gallery in 1980; further, the repeated depiction of two metal lounge chairs the artist designed for his exhibition in the Kunsthistorischens Museum Wien in 1989 underscores the significance West accords the furniture-sculptures in his oeuvre. Even within the exhibition one can follow recurrences of individual details, such as when the brightly patterned material that serves as the background in one of the sketches becomes a compositional element of a collage in another. Rather than functioning as announcements, like most exhibition posters, West’s “Poster Designs” are a kind of commentary, and form, so to speak, a retrospective in miniature: a look back that doesn’t aim to establish a certain reading of the earlier work, but rather, in the spirit of an “other reception,” provides a starting point for new, responsive image formulations.

Astrid Wege

Translated from German by Sara Ogger.