Zurich

Florian Germann, Untitled, 2020, bio resin dyed with fuel pigments, ferrite magnets, steel, 66 1/8 × 44 7/8 × 18 1/2".

Florian Germann, Untitled, 2020, bio resin dyed with fuel pigments, ferrite magnets, steel, 66 1/8 × 44 7/8 × 18 1/2".

Florian Germann

Gregor Staiger

In a series of 1930s studies of how people behave in museums, Arthur Melton discovered what has since been called “right-turn bias.” When entering a gallery, a large majority of visitors turn right and keep turning right until they find themselves trapped in a corner that obliges them to turn left. (This description is not intended as a political metaphor; it is strictly an empirical observation.) Turning right at the opening of Florian Germann’s “raised by dogs,” I saw two large sculptures, sheets of resin billowing from the wall, pinned down with prominent screws (all works Untitled, 2020). Suffused with pink and blue dye, the kind used to tint gasoline, the sheets also carried perfectly preserved fine creases and small coagulations in their structure, the result of a slow process of settling into their final rigid shape. They seemed like topographic maps caught transforming into three-dimensional models, with the furrows suggesting contour lines and small black dots resembling survey points. Surrounding these wall pieces were two sets of drawings made with colored pencils, and larger sculptural works, gently twisted sheets of pink-dyed resin leaning against the wall. Despite the evocation of maps, or perhaps partly because of them, I was initially lost.

If I had turned left, I would have started with a much smaller sculpture. Poking out of the gallery wall, absurd and almost a little obscene, was an oyster cast in aluminum and silver. Such a contradictory object, the oyster: like edible rock, with an inorganic surface and a muscular interior. It grows, but has no brain. The shape of an oyster could be a negative cast of the inside of a mouth, and indeed its flesh has roughly the volume of the visible part of a human tongue. In an earlier work, Germann subjected live oysters to small electrical signals that made them open and shut, like slow logic gates, in what looked like an electroplating bath (Untitled [Austerlitz II], 2010), recalling an industrial process that also hinted at the way oysters grow, slowly extracting calcium and carbonate from seawater. The play between various contexts enabled by Germann’s cast oyster in this show—between inorganic casting and natural growth, artificial energy and life, deliberate muteness and clever association—allowed it to function as a key to the exhibition as a whole.

Like other sculptors who have proved enduringly influential—such as Hany Armanious or, decades earlier, Bruno Gironcoli—Germann uses casting as a conscious resistance to the methods of conventional sculpture. His approach reprises the mechanisms of biological growth, of how living organs impose forms on each other and reproduce themselves in chains that extend through space and time. In addition, like Armanious or Gironcoli, Germann is painfully aware of how the processes of casting and electroplating are also those of mass production, whether of die-cast metal or semiconductors. Nevertheless, Germann does not preach. His installations may form force fields of associations, but within them the works remain autonomous, and the viewer does, too.