Hi! I’m sure you have all forgotten about the White Cube Diaries, since it has been months since my last blog post (shame on me! Not trying to make excuses for my absence but… I’ll tell you what, when something you started as “fun” becomes “work,” it’s hard to keep the up the momentum…) But any who, I did a little spring cleaning; revamped the blog layout, (kudos to those who noticed!), dusted off the cobwebs that were collecting in my brain and am now all revved up with fresh, new ideas and lots of positive energy to get this whole thing rolling again. Alright, so now without further adieu – the whimsically witty, Problem Paintings by Urs Fischer.
p.s. Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! (Click here to check out my mother’s day post from last year!) But before I continue into my post, I especially wanted to thank the amazing lady who has encouraged me all my life, and encouraged me to keep up on my blog (your persistence is paying off!) – my most avid reader, helpful editor, and constant supporter – a special thanks to you mom; I wouldn’t be where I am today without you!
Facetious in every sense of the word, Urs Fischer’s Problem Paintings are not meant to be taken seriously. (I mean, how seriously can you take a picture of Veronica Lake with a pepper on her face, come on?) Even when asked, in an interview with art critic and curator Jonathan Griffin, about the significance and/or ideas behind his work, Fischer answers plainly,
I make this, that’s what I do.” I don’t have to justify anything to anybody…
(Refreshing, isn’t it, to have an artist admit to making something, “just because.”)
In contrast to the conceptual art movement, Fischer’s work is more of an art for art’s sake venture. Acting as a self proclaimed “assembler,” Fischer does more of the making and less of the explaining. Though we are left to speculate on the specific reasonings behind certain celeb and produce pairings, we can appreciate the visual complexities of Fischer’s work. Old hollywood photos paired with timeless/contemporary objects, create an clever juxtaposition and tension between time specificity and timelessness. Also the dichotomy between the people and their paired objects, how an egg stands in for a head, a tool for an eye, or a root vegetable as a nose etc is at the same time comical and beautiful, but in a grotesque/ offbeat kind of way.
Though we certainly can’t overlook certain Hollywood icons peeking out behind the produce, Fischer states in an interview with Neville Wakefield, that it’s not about the portrait underneath at all. He claims it’s more about the universality of the object on top, stating that he uses photographs of old Hollywood stars because of their impersonal, sculpted and idealized nature.
The funny thing is that fruits are more universal than movie stars.
Despite the familiarity or unfamiliarity you may have with the people in Fischer’s paintings, one thing that I find impossible to ignore is the division he, unintentionally or maybe intentionally, creates between younger and older viewers. I know for a fact my parents would recognize every old hollywood star behind the lemon slice/hard boiled egg/banana peel etc; however my younger siblings wouldn’t even be able to name one. I can’t help but wonder how their viewing experiences differ and in turn how do they then interpret the work? Would my parents be more intrigued and/or find this work more amusing because they knew that was Elizabeth Taylor with a cigarette butt on her face? Would they find some cultural connection between the actor/actress and the object, that an ignorant viewer would miss? Then on the other hand would my younger siblings even care to know whose portrait was under the cigarette and would they find it funny regardless? Though I don’t have the answers to these questions, I personally don’t think I need to know who each person is; either way I find the work to be humorous, peculiar and strangely appealing. All in all, Fischer’s Problem Paintings live in a realm of amusing ambiguity; they are what they are, and we can interpret them as we want, or not.
The advantage of art is that it just does what it does. You look at this lemon, it’s a lemon, that’s it. There’s nothing more to it.