David Zwirner London is pleased to present an exhibition of sculptures and works on paper from 1972 to 2004 by Austrian artist Franz West (1947–2012). Spanning his more than four-decade-long career, the exhibition offers an overview of the artist’s singular and influential body of work, and, in particular, his radical repositioning of traditional notions of sculpture.
Emerging in Vienna in the early 1970s, West developed a unique aesthetic that engaged equally high and low reference points and often privileged social interaction as an intrinsic component of his work. By playfully manipulating everyday materials and imagery in novel ways, he created objects that served to redefine art as a social experience, calling attention to the ways in which art is presented to the public, and how viewers interact with works of art and with each other.
Image: Installation view, Franz West, David Zwirner, London, 2019
"The Passstücke represent a new aesthetic that eschews all ideas of perfection or beauty in favour of the dirty, the wonky and even the deceptive. Despite this anti-aesthetic intention in which the ‘ugly’ ends up producing a feeling of attraction—a reversal at which West always excelled—their haptic nature encourages grasping, engendering gestures that are sometimes awkward or grotesque, far from any notion of perfection." —Christine Macel, "Franz West: La grande digestion," in Franz West, 2018
"The idea was more to create an environment, and that the Adaptive could be handled and used rather than be looked at. For the romantics like Schlegel and the German philosophers, what makes art and painting special is that neither should be touched. With the Adaptives, the opposite is true....I liked the idea that in picking up one of the Adaptives there is a moment of not knowing what to do next, a moment of not knowing what to do with the audience. You make unplanned actions and gestures with the audience looking at you, and you wonder what you are doing with this. So the gestures become a little like art. Beuys during this period was making big pronouncements that ‘every man is an artist’ or at least that, in its modified form, ‘every man has the potential to be an artist’. So unlike, say, a white sculpture by Hans Arp that you look at, with the Adaptives, you could pick it up and walk around the museum." —Franz West in conversation with Tom Eccles in Art Review, 2012
"[For the Legitimate Sculptures] West took to papier-mâché, seeing in it not only a very cheap resource that he could exploit while funds were scarce, but as a low material, sneered at by the American minimalists, pop artists and anyone working within the legacies of the Duchampian readymade, and associated, then as now, with the kindergarten. The Legitimate Sculptures were mostly formed from this most illegitimate material." —Mark Godfrey, "Attitudes and Forms: Franz West After 1987," in Franz West, 2018
"West was not initially confident about how to colour sculpture and in his later Passstücke he sometimes asked painter-friends to embellish the usually white forms. ...When West chose his own colours they were often laden with associations.…[his] sense for colour shifted as he started to paint his own works and, by the mid-1990s, most of the papier-mâché were riotously polychromatic. He would go to art supply shops and select the ready-mixed paints that painters working nearby had ordered and then rejected. When he brought the pots back to the studio, he would pour and paint pretty indiscriminately, turning the object over in the process. Photographs and films capture him with a telephone in one hand and a long brush in the other, painting away in a state of productive distraction, but somehow achieving a mess of colour that felt just right." —Mark Godfrey, "Attitudes and Forms: Franz West After 1987," in Franz West, 2018