In collaboration with the
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
in Madrid, the ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art (MNK) is
mounting a comprehensive show of work by Franz West.
Distributed over the two light courts of the museum, the
wide-ranging exhibition offers a survey of the oeuvre of this
artist, who was born in Vienna in 1947. It is Germanyís first
large-scale show devoted solely to Franz West and spanning his
different areas of work.
The artistís creative periods are successively conveyed through
installations, sculptures, furniture, video works and prints,
including significant pieces from the Grässlin collection
housed in the MNK. With a focus clearly placed on recent and
new work, some exhibits will be on public view for the first
time. Particular interest is likely to be roused by the
large-scale aluminium sculptures and installations arranged
by Franz West in configurations responding to the architecture
of the Museum of Contemporary Art. In the second court of the
museum, for instance, canopied rafts moored in a large water
basin invite visitors to venture onto unsteady ground.
Despite being deeply impressed by Viennese Actionism
in his youth, Franz West embarked upon his artistic career
in the mid-1970s with wholly self-reliant sculptures and
graphics. In the course of the past ten to fifteen years,
he has become one of the most influential sculptors at
international level, as indicated by, among other things,
his inclusion in major exhibitions (such as the documenta
IX, 1992, and X, 1997, the Venice Biennale, 1990, sculpture
projects in Münster in 1987 and 1997), and numerous
one-man shows in Europe and the USA (including Vienna,
Prague, Porto, Malmö, Los Angeles, Chicago). His early
ëadaptivesí - a series of sculptures he has continuously
advanced up to the present day ñ solicit the active spectator
participation that is a leitmotif running through his work.
The lifting, holding, and ëapplyingí of these apparently
non-functional sculptures is integral to the original concept
of the series and encourages the viewer to enter into a
physical connection with artworks that without this involvement
would remain incomplete.
Similarly, his furniture sculptures and
installations ñ the divans, chairs and banks ñ are works
of art complemented by the body of the viewer who chooses
to sit down on them. The perception of the seated viewer
is liable to be confused by adjacent works such as the
abstrusely shaped, often intensively coloured, pieces
belonging to other groups of sculptures, whose placement on
pedestals shows them also to be works of art. Franz Westís
ironic and playful titles point to the influence of writings
by philosophers and psychologists such as Ludwig Wittgenstein
or Sigmund Freud. The artist, however, does not intend such
titles to provide assistance in understanding his creations.
It is more the case that the cultural environment and the
occupation of the same is an important theme of his work,
with the direct, physical ñ as opposed to purely
intellectual ñ participation of the artist, and viewer
too, playing a vital role in the creative process.
In this regard, Franz West shows himself to be an important
representative of a mode of interactive art whose immediacy
and sensuality directly appeals to the perceptive faculties.
One aspect that will become especially clear in this
Karlsruhe exhibition is the multifaceted and manifold
transition from classical museum presentation - pure
ëexhibitsí behind glass and on pedestals - to three-dimensional
environments that solicit the usage of museum visitors.
Franz West lives and works in Vienna.
An artistís book designed by Franz West containing
numerous illustrations, explanatory essays, texts by
the artist, and the catalogue of the exhibition, will appear.