Urs Fischer at MOCA

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The Swiss artist Urs Fischer, 39, has no respect for the well-groomed museum. In MOCA's Grand Avenue building, he has painted the light wood floors in black, splashing the excess around the baseboards, and cut ragged holes in the walls so that you can see straight through the galleries. (MOCA owns one of these holes.) The place smells yeasty and warm from the fresh baguettes that were cut to fill in holes in his sculpture of a house made of bread.

"Horses Dream of Horses"
Sammlung Ringier Collection, Switzerland, 2004

Blue raindrops the size of pears hang from barely visible microfilament, like the freeze frame of a spring shower. Sculptures of skeletons abound, lying on a white sofa, draped backward over a washing machine. A bed with inviting white linen, actually made of aluminum, is weighed down by a big dump of cement. It is a body of work simultaneously inviting and harsh, funny and revolting.

"Kratz," 2011
Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

Fischer is an artist with a gift for the telling physical gesture, crucial instincts for a sculptor. On the walls, there hang a number of Problem Paintings, celebrity faces covered by a banana peel or slice of lemon, and they are indeed problematic. But Fischer is not afraid to make the off-color joke, to do the wrong thing. It seems that he follows a certain personal faith is in the process of making the work.

Clay portraits of Jeffrey Deitch
Geffen Contemporary

This is most evident in the second part of the exhibition held at the Geffen Contemporary, which is filled with dozens and dozens of raw clay sculptures made by some 1500 volunteers. They must come from art schools as so many of the pieces are well-executed, a life-size fireplace, a futuristic city and a number of busts of MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch. Fischer has contributed his own clay sculptures, I was told, but does not sign them or differentiate them from the other anonymous sculptures. This is unusually democratic in the rarified museum realm. The attitude can be seen again in his wax copy of a 17th century Giambologna sculpture rising 20 feet tall amidst clay chaos on the floor. It awaits a wick. After Fischer lights it, it will burn as a giant candle, along with another candle effigy of his friend, artist Rudolph Stingel, and a candle desk chair, possibly a seat of inspiration. Other galleries are wallpapered with a photographic copy of the studio walls of another friend, Josh Smith. The weeks of building clay sculptures and this wallpaper underscore the notion that he is operating a studio atmosphere within the museum. But his institutional critique is as physical as it is theoretical.

Urs Fischer and Larry Gagosian at MOCA

The exhibition was organized by Tate Museum curator Jessica Morgan and opens to the public on April 21, the day after the MOCA gala is held in both venues, hosted by Fischer's art dealer Larry Gagosian. Apparently, it is sold out with tickets starting at $2,500. It was announced yesterday that $75 million towards the endowment has been pledged recently. Things are looking up for the beleaguered museum. The show continues to August 19. For more information, go to MOCA.org.

Banner image: Fischer's Undigested Sunset, 2001-2002