February 28, 2016

Peter Fischli David Weiss at the Guggenheim

(Selections from "Order and Cleanliness", 1981)

Peter Fischli David Weiss: How to Work Better

Walking down the spiral ramp of the Guggenheim, much time was spent marveling at the simulacra fabrication of quotidian studio debris, all made from hand carved foam. Tools, buckets, hardware store products, cabinetry. After a few exhibition bays, I wondered about the focus required to keep on conceptual point, to resist in-jokes, poetry, tangents and flights of fancy (the one and only exception was "The Raft" - I thought of GĂ©ricault - installed in the final gallery at the top of the ramp, and curiously lit in an archly theatrical manner, perhaps unique to this installation)... was it philosophical rigor or a rigor-mortis of routine and technique?

My definition of postmodernism fits this work perfectly. To quote myself [ahem]: "pointing at everyday life via conceptual means", and Fischli & Weiss did an awful lot of pointing. I thought of how different and how similar this work is in compared to Claes Oldenberg's plaster and sculpture of everyday objects. Gone are the overtones of Ab-Ex slap happy paint handling, the cartoonish exaggeration and perhaps more importantly, whimsy itself. Gone too is an eye for the wider and even popular world and in its place, the gaze is kept rigidly to the inner world of their studio. Severe self reflection seems to be the sole conceptual means. There is nothing to transcend.

Further down the ramp came the Rube-Goldberg photographs balancing things (anything literally within reach) together much like a hiker or beach goer would balance a tower of rocks... and a film of such a contraption in action, always a crowd magnet.

Further still was planted a forest of plinths topped with hand sized unfired clay purported to be a loose encyclopedic history of the world, each amusing and touching in the way direct work with the hand can do (I thought of Tom Otterness) to an audience but collectively I concluded that a loose encyclopedia is oxymoronic.

The final turn of the spiral walk was populated with early drawings, a majority of them diagrammatic. Diagrams of what? As yet I don't know, but I suspect that they might be like Wittgenstein's ladder, meant to be discarded once you ascend it.

Posted by Dennis at February 28, 2016 6:10 PM

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