Coinciding with “Kitchen Trees,” B. Wurtz’s major installation for Public Art Fund at City Hall Park in Lower Manhattan, “Domestic Space” at Metro Pictures includes new large-scale sculptures and photographs printed on fabric, as well as films made early in Wurtz’s career.
While Wurtz is known for his carefully assembled sculptures made from quotidian objects, the works on view demonstrate the post-conceptual broadening of art inherent to the artist’s long-standing practice. Playing with scale, perspective, and various media, he continues to mine the full potential of household objects and materials, testing aesthetic principles and notions of intrinsic value with humor and insight. This will be Wurtz’s first exhibition at the gallery since 2013.
“Domestic Space” features Wurtz’s Photo/Object series begun in 1987. Each work consists of a sculptural object paired with a photograph of that object, which distorts its scale and creates a disorienting feeling of monumentality. A new series of large photographs of domestic textiles printed on fabric is inspired by a work in the exhibition from 2009 titled Dirty Laundry—an image of a pile of laundry printed on translucent fabric. The works are hung from rods like a tapestry, inviting comparison between the things themselves and the objects they represent.
Predictive of the trajectory Wurtz’s work has taken over the last 40 years, the exhibition includes several short, rarely seen Super 8 films made while he was still a student at CalArts. In each film he sits at a table and looks straight ahead at the camera, evoking the presentation style of a news anchor or talk show host, and discusses an everyday object. Wurtz speaks directly to the viewer and elaborates on how he obtained the object, why he finds it interesting, and how he may be able to use it in some way other than its intended purpose. Some films include a soundtrack specifically related to the object. For example, classical music can be heard in the background of the film Metal Sculpture, where Wurtz explores the possibilities of a new metal sculpture he has discovered (which in actuality is an ordinary folding music stand).
Three new free-standing cubic sculptures serve as both a container and a stage for a group of modest household objects—plastic bags, wire, socks, buttons, and dish towels—exactingly arranged in deliberate yet whimsical compositions. Hanging on the wall behind them will be three new large photographs printed on canvas, each featuring enlarged food and drink containers.
On September 30, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, will open “This Has No Name,” a major museum survey of Wurtz’s work. In 2015 he was the subject of a retrospective at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, United Kingdom, which traveled to La Casa Encendida, Madrid, in 2016. Additional one-person exhibitions have been presented at Kunstverein Freiburg, Germany; White Flag Projects, St. Louis; and Gallery 400, University of Illinois at Chicago. Wurtz has participated in group exhibitions at museums such as MoMA PS1, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and Musée d’Art Contemporain de Lyon, France.all images © the gallery and the artist(s)