Spread across MOCA Grand Avenue and The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, the first survey in the United States of the Swiss-born artist Urs Fischer weaves together some of his most memorable and iconic sculptural works while creating an unexpected landscape in both venues. Fischer’s world is fluctuating and unpredictable, and the pleasure that we derive from his sculpture and painting is based on our attraction to and simultaneous repulsion by the dreamlike appearances that he constructs. Fischer’s work is characterized by an unending diversity of materials, strategies, concepts, and images. Sculptures are created through an elaborate aluminum casting process, roughly hewn in wood, or cast in wax only to melt away during the run of the exhibition. The artist delights in the possibilities of surface, but even works that suggest his handmade touch turn out to have been produced through a range of digital processes in order to create the oddly surreal appearance of reality gone wrong.
A twisted take on the real, Fischer’ work unabashedly declares its affiliation to such art historical movements as Pop, Surrealism, and Dada, all of which similarly toyed with the found image to create new and unanticipated combinations, shifts of scale, and a sometimes violent collision of visual information. Fischer’s work is characterized by a morbid glamour-sexuality, the macabre, and the disturbing effects of fracture and collage all make frequent appearances in his oeuvre and echo our contemporary environment of constructed images. But this adult and consumer-conscious world abuts a (not unrelated) fairy-tale landscape populated with houses made of bread, giant falling raindrops, collapsing beds, and melting objects. In the artist’s imagination anything is possible, including the dramatic escalation in scale of a fist-size clay sculpture to a towering monolith of more than forty-five feet apparently produced by the hands of a giant.
At MOCA Grand Avenue, Fischer presents a survey of works from the last two decades. Among the subjects addressed are his sly and humorous approach to the human figure as represented by a group of skeleton sculptures, partial figures seated on top of furniture, and the head shots of 1950s film stars similarly obscured and defaced. Everyday furniture and objects have experienced a material transformation as stiff structures droop and collapse and others magically appear suspended in space.
Containing these enigmatic encounters is a gallery space that seems to have been prepared by a clumsy giant the walls roughly cut with holes large enough to drive a bus through and a messily painted floor that seems to have been treated like an enormous canvas. Fischer leads the viewer through the carefully orchestrated exhibition, from one spatial experience or visual scenography to another, bringing together the apparently disparate parts of the tale to create a landscape of fragmented figures, ruins, and fracture combined with the destabilizing perfection of an immaculate mirror reflection. Like the contradictory times we live in, Fischer’s work contains both the impossibly pristine and the tawdrily decrepit.
At The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, Fischer has undertaken a vast collaborative project contributed to by 1,500 individuals invited to come and work in clay in the weeks preceding the exhibition opening. All were asked to join him in making figures and animals out of clay-familiar forms to all, allowing for variation within a theme so that the possibilities for style, structure, scale, and finish are open to exploration while the overall refrain remains the same. Scattered throughout the expansive space of The Geffen, the clay forms are interspersed with Fischer’s works, including the massive wax sculpture Untitled (2011), which takes the form of Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabine Women (1579-83). Subjected to a process of melting through the controlled burning of strategically located wicks, the work brings together the ephemeral and the monolithic. Outside the museum, a reversal of this process has taken place as Fischer has transformed a small-scale clay sculpture into a colossus. Further reflecting on this method of conversion, Fischer’s photo-illusionistic wallpaper re-creates the environment of the studio of the New York-based artist Josh Smith. Fischer leads the viewer through the carefully orchestrated exhibition, from one spatial experience or visual scenography to another, bringing together the apparently disparate parts of the tale to create a landscape of fragmented figures, ruins, and fracture.
PARA MI GENTE
MOCA presents RETNA: Para mi gente, a site-specific installation on view at MOCA Grand Avenue.
Los Angeles-based artist RETNA has a created an extensive environment inside the MOCA galleries, employing his sophisticated system of hieroglyphs, calligraphy, and illuminated script, which mirrors his sprawling public murals. Drawing upon Egyptian, Arabic, Hebrew, Old English, East Asian, and Native American typographies, RETNA has crafted his own lexicon and visual vocabulary that speaks to larger world histories and cross-cultural commonalities.
MOCA Director Jeffrey Deitch said, “The work is totally contemporary but traces back to ancient scripts. RETNA filters these elements through the tradition of tagging and graffiti that has been seen in Los Angeles since the 1970s. All the best art is past, present, and future combined, and this is what RETNA is doing.”
The installation features two large-scale murals, Para mi gente, los pintores de mi alma (For my people, the Painters of our Spirit) and The falcon, before and after, that provide very different views of the artistÃ¢ÂÂs practice and trajectory. Para mi gente, los pintores de mi alma pays homage to modern and contemporary artists in the field, many of whom are in MOCAÃ¢ÂÂs renowned permanent collection. When offered the opportunity to create the piece inside the museum alongside many of the artists that have influenced his work, RETNA chose to honor them by writing their names in his distinctive calligraphic characters. Referencing the practice of graffiti tagging to claim terrain and assert oneÃ¢ÂÂs presence, as well as the creation of memorial walls, RETNA actively chooses to commemorate artists both living and deceased whose visions have informed his process and aesthetic. While most viewers will be unable to decipher his alphabet, the artist has provided the following translation:
The falcon, before and after, draws more heavily on the Chicano writing styles of Los Angeles street art crews and marks a return to RETNAÃ¢ÂÂs more traditional graffiti practice and his original process painting in public space. In keeping with his earlier work, the artist makes frequent reference to the spirit of the Falcon, an ancient Egyptian emblem signifying success, victory, power, and wisdom.
RETNA (AKA Marquis Lewis) was born in 1979 in Los Angeles, CA. At an early age, Retna was introduced to L.A.Ã¢ÂÂs mural culture and while still in high school led one of the largest and most innovative graffiti art collectives in the city. An integral part of the Los Angeles art scene since the mid-1990s, RETNA has participated in over thirty international exhibitions and countless public murals. Recent projects have included a solo exhibition at Michael Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles (2012); the Houston/Bowery wall in New York City (2012); a mural for the Louis Vuitton store, Miami, and SLS Hotel (2012); participation in Art in the Streets at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA (2011); The Hallelujah World Tour, a traveling solo exhibition presented by Andrew Valmorbida and Vladimir Restoin Roitfield, New York, and London (2011); Ã¢ÂÂSilver LiningÃ¢ÂÂ, as part of Primary Flight, the WorldÃ¢ÂÂs Largest Street Level Mural Installation at Art Basel Miami Beach (2010); Desaturated, a solo exhibition at New Image Art Gallery, Los Angeles (2010); and a mural for the Margulies Collection in Miami, FL (2009). Upcoming exhibitions include: Zona Maco, Michael Kohn Gallery, Mexico City, MX (2013), and Art Basel Hong Kong(2013).
04.21.13 – 08.19.13
MUSEUM HOURS (Grand)
TUES, WED CLOSED
SAT, SUN 11am–6pm
General Admission: $12
Students with I.D.: $7
Seniors (65+): $7
Children under 12: Free
Jurors with I.D.: Free
Free Thursday Evenings:
Admission to MOCA Grand Avenue is free every Thursday, 5–8pm, courtesy of Wells Fargo.