FRANZ WEST- GAGOSIAN

Franz West
Man with a Ball

October 9 – November 10, 2012

GAGOSIAN GALLERY- Britannia Street, London

Images courtesy of Gagosian Gallery Website. More information about the exhibition can be found here:

http://www.gagosian.com/artists/franz-west

FRANZ WEST: Man with a Ball”
Installation view
Photo by Mike Bruce

There is a really exciting solo exhibition of Franz West sculptures and paintings at Gagosian Gallery in London.

FRANZ WEST: Man with a Ball”
Installation view
Photo by Mike Bruce

“Creativity is just rhetoric. The everyday life wants to enter, but I have to carefully dam it up.” West

As a newcomer to Franz West, I side-stepped past the large pink intestinal sculpture in the foyer and sat at a table, leafing through various catalogues, whilst my fellow compadre rampaged through an entire sketchbook making fast, expressive drawings from the sculptures in the gallery.

I came across a five-page conversation between the artist Sarah Lucas and Franz West at the front of a book.  It seemed to be an email dialogue, where Lucas posed questions to West about his motivations and where they might position their art against others as well as hair removal. It flitted between seriousness and nonsense. There was a film called Energy Diaries, shown at the ICA this year,documenting a 2010 conversation between the two artists and also Andreas Reiter Raabe, with music interventions by Philipp Quehenberger. There is a really good and funny review of this talk held at the Royal Institution, London, 21st June 2010  by Rebecca Bell: Click on this link to see more….

http://slashstrokemagazine.com/2010/06/28/‘a-talk’-sarah-lucas-andreas-reiter-raabe-and-franz-west/

 I have included an extract from the write-up by Rebecca Bell, as it sets the tone for West’s  and indeed Lucas’ work.

“The evening reached a climax of mixed pleasure, frustration and confusion when Lucas walked out saying “I’m going for a wee” which resulted in many people leaving. West shrugged and said to the audience “money back again”. I suddenly felt I was part of a morphing Stoppard Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

When Lucas returned questions were invited from the floor – to which a young man asked what was going on. He had come for a talk, he had come to an institution, he expected information, and he expected a structure.

The artists asked him what he wanted to know and they would tell him. The starry crowd tangibly divided between those sneering at his lack of comprehension and those nodding vehemently at his right to ask the question they were too afraid to ask. Perhaps he exposed an Emperor’s New Clothes element to the proceeding, but also in questioning the activity he created a Brechtian sense of performance, a commentator exposing the process of the event, clarifying the deterioration of the 4th (in this case even 3rd, 2nd and 1st?) wall.

The frustration of many seemed contradictory for a crowd so willing to accept anything within the boundaries of the artists’ decision and yet they rejected this member of the audience for demanding to become a part of an apparently boundless event/experience through his question.

I digress; back to the books and I read a second interview. West was asked how he begins his sculptures. In response, West explained how he would stand in front of nothing and then make a ‘body’ which is then corrected and vamped up in several stages to conceal his ‘inability’ to make art.  Various objects such as wicker baskets and card board boxes used to develop this central body were left partly exposed and unpainted whilst other areas are completely submerged in  bandages of paper and paint and no longer identifiable.

FRANZ WEST: Man with a Ball”
Installation view
Photo by Mike Bruce

FRANZ WEST: Man with a Ball”
Installation view
Photo by Mike Bruce

My fellow artist made some really interesting observations about West’s work. She described them as a  3-D drawing on a journey. The  twisting shapes felt full of movement as I was compelled to scan over the sculptures following the curves from end to end. There was a desire to interact; to step over, get inside and to touch the sculptures. West mentions his link with Nikki De Saint Phalle’s grottos, where the audience could inhabit both the interior and also view the surface of the art work. In fact, her giant sculpture garden  in Tuscany was indeed inhabited by De Saint Phalle and her team of workers for the duration of its construction.

Niki De Saint Phalle

A post man came into deliver some letters to Gagosian passing right through the pink twirling form and  then ducking back out again. Did he really touch that? I quite liked his blasé attitude as this seemed on the same level as West. I read how West was also not a fan of Henry Moore’s sculptures, as they were too perfect and smooth. There is an equilibrium between the  process of construction and the physicality of materials and structure. Nothing is more or less important; The surfaces are not overworked and the sculptures don’t pretend to be anything other than a mass of pulp objects and paint. The sculptures were made mainly from paper mache pulp and foam; materials akin to school art lessons. The paint is clumpy and mottled. West mentioned that others would colour the sculptures as he thought he could not paint, but the sculptures became to ‘arrogant’ to him, so he started to paint them himself instead. Some of the sculptures are partly painted, so you can see the grey paper mulch peeking through or large areas are left unprimed. Then there is a mixture of upside-down drips, splashes and layering of different colours that also have dripped down onto the plinths below. I read that when returning to his freshly painted sculptures for the first time, he saw the colour had lost its shine and vitality and was disappointed by this. However the sculptures at Gagosian had been developed using a gloss of acrylic lacquer which increased the richness of colours.

FRANZ WEST: Man with a Ball”
Installation view
Photo by Mike Bruce

“A sculpture is more real than a 2-D artwork.” West

FRANZ WEST: Man with a Ball”
Installation view
Photo by Mike Bruce

 I wanted not to like West’s work, but it was not possible. It was so free and fun and casual and lacking any pomposity or pretensions. He seemed a  bit of a joker.

From Gagosian’s Press release:

“In the seventies, he produced the first of the small, portable, mixed media sculptures called Adaptives (Passstücke). These “ergonomically inclined” objects become complete as artworks only when the viewer holds, wears, carries or performs with them. Transposing the knowledge gained with these formative works, he explored sculpture increasingly in terms of an ongoing dialogue of actions and reactions between viewers and objects in any given exhibition space, while probing the internal aesthetic relations between sculpture and painting.”

My favourite part of the exhibition, was these three baby coloured sculptures. Ridiculously big, yet not monumental, cartoon like and silly, pleasurable and enveloping, the sculptures seemed to float in the space like alien meteors.
Franz West- 16 February 1947 – 25 July 2012
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One thought on “FRANZ WEST- GAGOSIAN

  1. I am very glad you chose to write about the Franz West show; it is the best show I have seen recently. His sculputre reminds me of Phylida Barlow’s work. There is something interesting about pieces of work which have an inherinently tactile and ‘human’ quality about them. They seem very free.

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