Urs Fischer

Galerie Eva Presenhuber

A feeling of emptiness set in upon entering Urs Fischer’s exhibition “Large, Dark & Empty.” The viewer at first saw not the five cast aluminum and polyurethane sculptures on display but two huge expanses of mirrors: In both spaces, the opposite walls were mounted with mirrors that extended from ceiling to floor, confronting the visitor with her own image. Looking at the mirrored wall of death of a moment (all works 2007), one saw oneself and the entire room reflected—as well as the opposite room (and one’s back), mirrored in birth of a moment, in an endless repetition. Only at second glance did one notice the sculptures, primarily white and unobtrusively positioned within the space or affixed to the walls.

In the sculpture thank you fuck you, Fischer once again uses the image of the washing machine, recurrent in his work, here combining it with a ladder and pillows. This juxtaposition reveals the artist’s interest in the unfamiliar staging of the familiar; while it might not be the most surprising instance of this predilection, the perfectly rendered consistency of the clean, white, seamless surfaces gives the sculpture a haptic quality reminiscent of Fischer’s wax objects. And one could hardly guess that the work is made of cast aluminum; its opaque materiality plays on qualities such as soft and hard, light and heavy. By contrast, another sculpture, fuck you thank you, appears fragile and lacking in materiality, although it shares the same nearly sterile aesthetic. This work, composed of a white branch, a ski boot, and a wash basin, each of which has been split in half, dissolves hierarchical categories such as pedestal and sculpture. With its open construction, it opposes the self-containment of classical statuary as well as of the body of the viewer, whose gaze constantly hovers between the works, their virtual duplication in the mirror, and her own reflection. Hands, a traditional motif in the history of art and a frequent element in Fischer’s oeuvre, appear in the grass munchers: a cast aluminum fragment of the artist’s shoulders, arms, and hands is held, or pulled, by the wax casts of three hands. Depending on how one reads the work, the hands either carry the artist or simply grasp him in a stable relationship of reciprocal support.

More unsettling than the rather placid sculptures were the hydraulic movements of the mirrored walls, which perform regular, barely noticeable tilting motions. There is something disturbing in their effect on spatial perception: In place of the experience of an exalted aristocratic lifestyle conjured by a Baroque mirror-cabinet, they conjure a malaise-provoking emptiness. One senses a leveling juxtaposition of space, objects, and observer, each multiplied in mirroring distortion. The slowness of the mirror’s movements and its echo of vanitas symbolism lent the show an air of gravity, intimating transience and the passage of time.

Valérie Knoll

Translated from German by Diana Reese.