gateshead-uk

View of “B. Wurtz,” 2015–16. From left: Untitled (Autobiographical Sculpture), 1972; Untitled (Lampshade), 1986; Untitled, 2012. Photo: John McKenzie.

B. Wurtz

BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art

View of “B. Wurtz,” 2015–16. From left: Untitled (Autobiographical Sculpture), 1972; Untitled (Lampshade), 1986; Untitled, 2012. Photo: John McKenzie.

KNOW THYSELF, reads a 1992 B. Wurtz assemblage, Untitled (sock piece #7). The Delphic maxim is scrawled on a piece of canvas flanked by a pair of mauve tube socks. Is the artist talking to us? Or to the artwork itself? It might well be a question of the work’s own self-examination, for this quality is evident throughout the more than three hundred pieces—eighty-two objects, eight early videos, and 216 paintings on the bottoms of aluminum pans—on view in this first B. Wurtz retrospective, “Selected Works: 1970–2015,” curated by BALTIC chief curator Laurence Sillars.

Wurtz says that he chooses materials based on three things: sleeping, eating, and keeping warm. That is, the bare necessities. Or as the New York–based artist put it to me: “What else do you need to be happy?” Yet, ironically, day-to-day survival provides the platform for Wurtz’s real interest: celebrating the

Sign-in to keep reading

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

Not registered for artforum.com? 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 February 2016 issue for $17 or the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

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