In conjunction with the Austrian artist Erwin Wurm’s 20th anniversary of his one-minute sculptures - for which he is best known - New York’s Lehmann Maupin gallery is showing 'Ethics demonstrated in geometrical order', displaying Wurm’s newest one-minute series and five new sculptures.
'The one-minute sculptures have changed a lot over the years since the first show I did in 1997,' says Wurm. 'At first I tried playing around with the idea of sculptures who had a short existence, then it was me interacting with them, and later I thought it would be interesting to involve the public.' The one-minute sculptures will also be presented at this year’s Venice Biennale.
The basic premise stays consistent. For each work, Wurm presents an object and creates a drawing and specific text inscribed on that object to instruct the user how to pose with it for one minute. The resulting awkward contortions are humorous, but the interaction contains deeper meanings. 'It’s related to issues of science, philosophy, psychology and explores ideas of free will and authorship,' Wurm says. 'For a while, I used to make the drawing inviting the pubic to follow my instructions, then I would take a Polaroid photo and would offer to sign it for them, so it became an interplay of who was the author of the finished result. Then the iPhone came along and selfies happened and people were making one-minute sculptures on their own.'
'Organisation of Love', 2016, by Erwin Wurm as part of One Minute Sculptures
For this show, Wurm selected midcentury modern furnishings due to their current popularity. 'Furniture is something I’ve always found particularly intriguing because at the beginning everyone thinks something is unique, but then it becomes part of mass taste. People try to illustrate themselves and their lives through their furnishings,' he explains. Throughout his work, Wurm plays with our common perception of how everyday items should be experienced, from household objects and furniture, to cars and buildings.
Wurm also presents partially melted sculptures of two New York landmarks, the Equitable building and the Flat Iron building in addition to seemingly random objects like a bag of clay and pickles. All of the sculptures distort the item, either by giving it an inflated, fat look, or as Wurm describes the melting process, 'double-destoys it.' By changing the forms in these ways, Wurm believes he also changes the larger context and meaning of the object itself, even if that new meaning is unique to each viewer.