49
49

PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION

Urs Fischer
UNTITLED
Estimate
1,000,0001,500,000
LOT SOLD. 852,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT
49

PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION

Urs Fischer
UNTITLED
Estimate
1,000,0001,500,000
LOT SOLD. 852,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York

Urs Fischer
B. 1973
UNTITLED
wax, wick, pigment, brick and metal
66 7/8 by 18 1/8 by 11 3/8 in. 170 by 46 by 29 cm.
Executed in 2001.
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This work is number three from an edition of three plus one artist's proof, and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.

Provenance

Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich
Private Collection, London
Acquired by the present owner from the above

Exhibited

Zurich, Galerie Hauser & Wirth & Presenhuber, Mastering the Complaint, August - October 2001
Zurich, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Breathing the Water, February - March 2003
London, Hayward Gallery, The Human Factor: The Figure in Contemporary Sculpture, June – September 2014, pp. 83-84, illustrated in color

Literature

Exh. Cat., New York, New Museum, Urs Fischer: Shovel in a Hole, 2009, p. 51, illustrated in color
Exh. Cat., Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Urs Fischer, 2013, p. 185, illustrated in color and pp. 184 and 530, illustrated

Catalogue Note

Reconceiving the very nature of sculpture, Urs Fischer’s iconic Untitled from 2001 is the first example of the artist’s celebrated female nudes executed in wax. Continuously melting and resetting, it forms a surreal drama that is galvanized by his most crucial point of conceptual inquiry – the passage of time.  Drawing from art history’s most prolific visual trope, the female nude, Fischer threads his model with a central wick and endows it with the functional mechanism of a candle. With each exhibition of the work, Fischer’s invitation to ignite the top and leave it burning allows the profoundly temporal sculpture to embody a unique sense of performativity. Animating the static form as such, the cascading permutations of wax take on continuously evolving visual properties as Fischer’s idiosyncratically rough carvings dissolve into slick currents of flowing fluid that slow to capture an image of their former dynamism as they cool. Like the creeping metamorphosis of an icy glacier, in Untitled Fischer embodies a profound narrative of creation and destruction that not only mimics the essential kinetic cycles of nature, but provides an allegory of art’s evolution and the artist’s capacity to reinvent cultural standards.

Executed in 2001, Untitled is an important precursor to Fischer’s celebrated tripartite What if the Phone Rings, in which three similarly conceived female figures of varied poses parallel the mythological tableau of the Three Graces. In the present work, Fischer inaugurates his consciously coarse and awkward rendering of the female form to challenge the idealized naturalism of the classical Venus types that originated the genre. Excavating a human form by crudely carving into a Styrofoam block, Fischer’s prototypes are sent to a foundry to begin their transition into soft wax; a material that will achieve its most lustrous sheen when it has been ignited and melted once more. As a fragile, inverse parody of the lost-wax casting process used to create bronze nudes since ancient times, Untitled is roughly hewn with feet morphing into block-like pedestals that give honest indication of Fischer’s process and the medium’s inherent ephemerality.

Igniting a new model each time it is exhibited, the ultimate form that Untitled takes is governed by the flame’s consuming impact on the wax at that point in time. As minute variances in atmospheric conditions will influence the base physical interactions of materials, Untitled provides a unique record of an eternal concept, articulated through interminably changeable forms. The candle has been a long held symbol of the transience of life within the still-life vanitas tradition and here Fischer gives both corporeal form and experiential presence to this motif. The immortal status of a work of art is subversively drawn into the realm of fleeting human mortality, destabilizing the traditional function of the memento mori and privileging the concept of a lived present. Submitted to the primal element of fire – an intangible yet consummately powerful concentration of energy– the solidity of the sculptural medium is challenged by the most profound of physical process, unleashing new metaphysical capacities for the medium as its ability to communicate an image is perpetually disrupted. The heated wax alters in form, gradually softening until its viscosity thins to the density of pure fluid. Trickling down under the pull of gravity, inch by inch, the formal structure of the figure disintegrates and simultaneously re-forms in linear drips of its own medium and piled forms of abstract splendor. 

The process mimics the primordial transition of magma, the earth’s volatile core substance, as it erupts, flows and cools to form the very structure of the world we inhabit. The myth of creation is itself embodied thematically through the evocation of the naked Eve archetype, the biblical mother of humanity depicted as a vulnerable metaphor for the folly of humanity. Yet propped up with the stiff posture of a commercial mannequin, Fischer looks away from art’s religious paradigms and classical monuments. Instead he constructs a surreally mechanized development of Tom Wesselmann’s Great American Nudes, plucked from the realm of fantasy and ushered into a bluntly desexualized yet distinctly tangible form. Morphing in an organic manner as though alive, yet ultimately moving towards its own destruction, Untitled debunks the Pygmalion myth and the male artist’s role as the divine creator that shapes the existence of his female subject. Clumsily crafted, with an amputated leg that rests haphazardly on blocks, Fischer interrogates the precarious nature of the female nude as an icon of art and presents it simply as superficial substance, malleable to the will of time.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York