The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) presents, until June 7th, a large retrospective of a major contemporary figure in the field of sculptural art, the Austrian Franz West.
Franz West was born in 1947 in Vienna and grew up in this uneasy atmosphere of the Post War in Austria. Indeed, since the country was declared as a victim of war, while a part of the Austrian actively collaborated to Nazism, the sociopolitical environment was very conflicted. Thus, very provocative forms of art such as the one of the Viennese Actionist raised during the Postwar. In reaction to them, Franz West elaborated in the mid 60s a radical art which played a critical role. : He decided to explore the possibilities of sculpture as a social and environmental experience, willing to create an interactive art.
In the early 70s, he created a series of small, portable sculptures called ‘Adaptives’. These plaster objects were not final as an artwork, since they were becoming art from the moment the viewer picked them up and carried around. Always white, the Adaptives were thus thought to be touched and manipulated, which his a step that no other artists made before. But during the first exhibition, Franz West explained that nobody, except a child, actually picked it up. To remedy to this, West created couches, tables and chair surrounding the objects. From that moment, the public started to sit, to manipulate the object and even started to have conversation and exchange points of view.
It was a total transformation of the exhibition space, becoming a lounge like, social environment. In the interview made at the occasion of the exhibition, West explained : “The Adaptives would be the dream and the chairs and tables would be the Earth (…)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. They were also a way to make a Happening. I was very aware of the artist Allan Kaprow, for example, at that time. It was not about seeing but about entering; art that you could really get in touch with.”
The artist developed his work by creating large-scale sculptures which could be interpreted to the Adaptives, they are the extension of this furniture environment. In the exhibition, the path of West is very well explained and give us a real sense of his social aim. Surrounding the major installations, you will thus appreciate some collages, drawings who are part of this so unique world.
West has exhibited internationally for more than three decades in galleries and museums, and at major festivals including Documenta IX (1992) and Documenta X (1997), Kassel, Germany; Sculpture Projects in Münster (1997); and the Venice Biennale (1988, 1993, 1997, 2003). In 1997 The Museum of Modern Art presented West with a solo show. More recently West's work has been exhibited at the Museo Nacional de Arte Reina Sofía (2001), Whitechapel Gallery, London (2003); Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna (2003); Gagosian Gallery, New York (2003); and the Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich (2006). West most recent will open in September of 2006 at The Gagosian Gallery in London.
[Visual above : Franz West, Sisyphos IX, 2002, Papiermâché, Styrofoam, cardboard, lacquer, acrylic paint, 68.5 x 59.8 x 44.1 in. (174 x 152 x 112 cm), The Rachofsky Collection, Dallas, © Franz West, Below , Franz West, Wegener Rooms 2/6–5/6 (Wegener Räume 2/6–5/6), 1988, Installation of four collages, four papier-mâché sculptures on artist’s pedestals, four metal chairs, and cruciform wall57.5 x 157.5 x 74.8 in. (400 x 400 x 190 cm) overall wall size15.2 x 11.8 in. (38.5 x 30 cm), 13.0 x 10.4 in. (33 x 26.5 cm), 15.2 x 11.8 in. (38.5 x 30 cm), 13.8 x 10.4 in. (35 x 26.5 cm), collagesn approximately 25.5 x 33.4 x 23.6 inches (65 x 85 x 60 cm) per chair, Grässlin Collection, St. Georgen, © Franz West, Photographer Thomas Berger, St. Georgen]