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LACMA Explores the Allure of Matter Ocula Report LACMA Explores the Allure of Matter 14 Jun 2019 : Jareh Das for Ocula

The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) (2 June 2019–5 January 2020) is an inter-generational show of 21 Chinese artists working from the 1980s to the present, including Ai Weiwei, Cai Guo-Qiang, Lin Tianmiao, Song Dong, He Xiangyu, Yin Xiuzhen, and Ma Qiusha.Staged on Level 2 of LACMA's Renzo...

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Thomas J Price: Reframing Classical Sculpture Ocula Conversation Thomas J Price: Reframing Classical Sculpture

When the London-born artist Thomas J Price graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Chelsea College of Arts in 2004, the school's college art prize was by no means his most notable accomplishment as an emerging artist. In 2001, Price presented his much-talked-about work Licked, a daring performance, later profiled on the BBC 4 television...

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Art Basel Lowdown: Shows to See Ocula Report Art Basel Lowdown: Shows to See 6 Jun 2019 : Tessa Moldan for Ocula

To coincide with Art Basel 2019, which opens to the public from 13 to 16 June, galleries and institutions across the city are presenting a range of stellar exhibitions. From Rebecca Horn at Museum Tinguely to Geumhyung Jeong at Kunsthalle Basel, here is a selection of what to see.William Kentridge, Dead Remus (2014–2016). Charcoal on found ledger...

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Franz West

(1947 - 2012), Austria

Franz West was an Austrian artist who produced contemporary sculpture, collages, furniture and installations. These works—all colourful, light-hearted and engaging—vary in scale from small, mobile gallery pieces to large installations in public parks and other civic spaces. For much of his long career he regularly featured in major international survey shows across the globe. He often collaborated with leading contemporary artists such as Sarah Lucas and Douglas Gordon, as well as younger artists like Anselm Reyle. West's work can be found in major public and private collections throughout Europe and the United States.

Born to communist parents in Allied-occupied post-war Vienna, West did not engage in artistic pursuits until he was well into his 20s. He had initially been studying civil engineering but dropped out in the mid-1960s to travel around Europe and the Middle East. He started making art—drawing, then sculpture and performance—around 1970, though he was at this point without any formal training. In 1977 West returned to Vienna to study art under Bruno Gironcoli at the Academy of Fine Arts, graduating in 1982. He was exposed to the performance art of the Viennese Actionists in the 1960s and 1970s, but rejected their insistence on provocative, violent ordeals and complex existential intensity. Instead he sought something more accessible. The theme of communication and interaction is present in all of West's work as he sought to disrupt the traditionally passive relationship between art viewers.

West's choice of materials is indicative of his rejection of high culture's pretentions. He made his art from plaster, papier mâché, wire, aluminium, styrofoam and carpet: materials one might expect to find in the home, the workshop or a typical school art room. In all of West's works his creative process is left visible; nothing is perfect or smooth. It is often said that he felt it does not matter what art looks like but how it is used.

West's earliest series of signature sculptures were the 'Adaptives' ('Passstücke') from the late 1970s. These small objects—made of plaster or papier mâché and painted white—were abstract forms ergonomically designed to be worn. Functioning as extensions of limbs, their completion as art could only come by the viewer adorning and performing with them. Some of the exhibited 'Adaptives' were supplemented with videos of people wearing them. The 'Adaptives'—made from non-traditional materials and roughly aligning form and function by encouraging viewer participation—became the foundation of the artist's practice.

From the 1980s, West's biomorphic sculptural forms began to develop in scale and size, translating into grand, painted or lacquered metal works and installations. The greatest manifestations of this were his later outdoor works such as The Ego and the Id (2008), with their colourful, spindly, snaking and bulbous forms. His vividly painted, organic, abstract papier mâché works such as Untitled (painted by Herbert Brandl) (1988) also developed into large-scale, imposing pieces like Untitled (large sculpture with can) (2009) and Lemur (2009).

Rising to prominence in the mid-1980s, West also began to produce and exhibit furniture as both installation sculptures and interventions in museum spaces. Initially, influenced by the early-20th-century design ethic of the Vienna Secessionists, he welded together pieces of scrap metal in a collage-like technique to make furniture resembling his 'Adaptives'. This approach is visible in the 2.1-metre piece, Untitled (2010), with its patchwork of lacquered aluminium sheeting. By the late 1980s West produced more familiar designs for tables, chairs, lamps and other domestic objects. Not intended as examples of cutting edge furniture design, some were too flimsy to be functional. Continuing this into the 2000s West made furniture such as Nannerl (2006)—composed of colourful coco mat, carpet on a steel frame—and provocatively introduced such pieces into exhibitions.

West's first large-scale public installation, Auditorium (for the 1992 documenta IX), consisted of 72 sofas—made from metal frames, ornate Turkish rugs and foam—as seating for a parking lot cinema. Most of his large-scale installations contain humour or playfulness. In Etude de couleur (1991) a colourful, panelled catwalk led to a functional urinal, highlighting the importance of colour while nodding to the heritage of Duchamp.

West also worked with two-dimensional media. From the 1970s through to the late 2000s, he produced collages, combining advertising imagery with abstract compositional arrangements. From the mid- to late 2000s, West utilised painting and collage techniques in the 'Poster Designs' that accompanied his exhibitions. The promotional design became an autonomous picture displayed in the show. The details of the exhibition referred to—the show's title, venue, date and other relevant information—became the subject matter. The 'Poster Designs'—both about the show and in it—implicated the viewer in the art.

Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2010
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Featured Artworks

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Three Times the Same by Franz West contemporary artwork
Franz WestThree Times the Same, 1998 Papier-mâché, paint, plastic, gauze and wood on three (3) white pedestals
David Zwirner
Guest bed (with Rudolf Polansky) by Franz West contemporary artwork
Franz WestGuest bed (with Rudolf Polansky), 1999 Bed: steel, mattress; picture: acrylic and plastic on canvas
Hauser & Wirth
Allzweckkasten (Multi-purpose box) by Franz West contemporary artwork
Franz WestAllzweckkasten (Multi-purpose box), 1998 Wood, four rollers, gauze, plaster, paint and polyester
110 x 79 x 54 cm
Hauser & Wirth
Habitus by Franz West contemporary artwork
Franz WestHabitus, 1996 Installation with floor and wall element, plastic, iron, wood, colour, chair
166 x 250 x 170 cm
Hauser & Wirth
Synchronie (Abriss) by Franz West contemporary artwork
Franz WestSynchronie (Abriss), 1997 Collaboration of 12 works
250 x 600 x 250 cm
Hauser & Wirth
Untitled by Franz West contemporary artwork
Franz WestUntitled, 1977 Paint on magazine ad in artist's frame
45.1 x 35.6 x 3.8 cm
Hauser & Wirth
Passstück by Franz West contemporary artwork
Franz WestPassstück, 1978 Dispersion, metal, papier-mâché, plaster
9 x 47.5 x 22 cm
Hauser & Wirth
Ergriffenheit by Franz West contemporary artwork
Franz WestErgriffenheit, 1983 Collage
38.5 x 83.5 cm
Hauser & Wirth

Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Dieter Roth, Franz West, Dieter Roth and Franz West at Hauser & Wirth, Zurich
15 March–4 May 2019 Dieter Roth, Franz West Dieter Roth and Franz West Hauser & Wirth, Zürich
Contemporary art exhibition, Franz West, Franz West at David Zwirner, London
21 February–5 April 2019 Franz West Franz West David Zwirner, London
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Family Guy at Simon Lee Gallery, London
3–20 October 2018 Group Exhibition Family Guy Simon Lee Gallery, London

Represented By

In Related Press

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Too Big for a Booth? Art Basel Still Has Room for Your Art Related Press Too Big for a Booth? Art Basel Still Has Room for Your Art The New York Times : 11 June 2019

Since it was begun in 2000, Unlimited, which is offered only at the fair in Basel, has proved to be a particularly popular draw. Most people attending the fair–there were 95,000 last year–are expected to visit the section, not only for the sheer wow factor of the works, but also for the relevance of its offerings.'I often tell people that...

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Sarah Lucas disrupts Franz West’s Tate Modern survey in off-kilter meeting of art provocateurs Related Press Sarah Lucas disrupts Franz West’s Tate Modern survey in off-kilter meeting of art provocateurs Wallpaper* : 19 March 2019

The first posthumous UK retrospective of Austrian artist Franz West has surfaced at London's Tate Modern following a run at the Centre Pompidou. A chronological compendium of work spans the artist's anarchic career, curated by Mark Godfrey and Christine Macel with scenography by British artist Sarah Lucas.This month, West is infecting London at a...

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Franz West at Centre Pompidou, Paris Related Press Franz West at Centre Pompidou, Paris ArtReview : 1 December 2018

Emerging in an early-1970s Viennese art scene dominated by the legacy of the Wiener Gruppe and the meteoric rise of the Actionists, Franz West, unsurprisingly, was a loner for much of his career. A great believer in the potency of pleasure, he approached artmaking with a playful, mind-drifting everydayness, fusing it with social functionality –...

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57th Venice Biennale 'Viva Arte Viva' Related Press 57th Venice Biennale 'Viva Arte Viva' art agenda : 13 May 2017

Viva Arte Viva is a tautological title. Since a tautological statement is one that is necessarily true on the basis of its circular syntactical structure, it's logical to assume that Christine Macel, the curator of the 57th Venice Biennale, is asking us to believe that art is alive, and/or that we should all celebrate the celebration of art. Viva...

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