Installation view, Franz West, Aussenskulptur (Outdoor Sculpture), Galerie Hauser & Wirth & Presenhuber, Zurich, 2002
Franz West (b. 1947) has been a prominent presence in the international art world since the mid-1980s. He is widely regarded as one of the most individual sculptural artists of his generation and is among the most celebrated contemporary artists.
His work is extremely varied, ranging as it does from video, drawing, collage, poster design, object, sculpture, and furniture to installation and environment. To Franz West, art is a thoroughly dynamic and multi-functional field open to all sides, and he likes to blur the distinctions between art-historical categories.
Most of Franz West’s works are intended to be actively experienced with the body. Already his “Passstücke” (Fitting Pieces) of the late 1970s were designed for the bodily involvement of the viewer. These amorphous sculptures, with their rough, crusty surfaces, are intended to be put on by the viewer, who thus enters into a discourse with the oddly shaped objects. This way, the usually passive viewer is temporarily turned into an active participant. Many such actions were documented by Franz West in videos and photos.
In the past fifteen years, West has won wide acclaim with his environments of furniture/sculpture. They are places for the viewer to take a rest, to sit or even lie down in, extending the interactive relationship between work and viewer. His chairs and couches, made of welded steel with slipcovers of fabric or carpet, are a logical continuation of the “Passstücke”. West has created striking resting places for sites like the rooftop of the Dia Center for the Arts in New York, the open-air cinema at the documenta IX and the great hall of the documenta X. These furniture sculptures are a way for West to address the ambivalent position of his works between autonomous work of art and object of utility.
In the late 1990s, Franz West turned to working on a larger scale, producing sculptural works for an outdoor setting. This decision forced the artist to abandon materials that are easy to handle, like plaster, papier-mâché, and polyester, and turn to one that is more weatherproof, aluminum. The outdoor sculptures and collages on view at the Galerie Hauser & Wirth & Presenhuber were made over the past year specifically for this exhibition. The brightly painted aluminum sculptures, called “Sitzwuste” (Sitting Heaps), were originally designed for the Ambras Castle Park near Innsbruck and have now found their way into the gallery as indoor sculptures. Franz West’s conception of sculpture truly realizes Umberto Eco’s theory of the “open work” in that the sculptures are only ever completed in the viewer’s head. The sculptures will be presented together with collages and poster designs for the exhibition.
Franz West lives and works in Vienna, Austria. His work has been shown in many international exhibitions of contemporary art, such as Skulptur. Projekte in Münster in 1997, the documenta X in Kassel in 1997 and the 1997 Biennale of Venice, as well as in numerous exhibitions in distinguished museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1997, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, in 1998 and the Museum für Angewandte Kunst (MAK), Vienna, and the Deichtorhallen, Hamburg, in 2001.