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Spring Arts Preview

Art Spotlight: Urs Fischer

Jessica Morgan of the Tate Modern, who is curating the artist's survey at MOCA, talks about working with him and what's in store for visitors.

March 08, 2013
  • A melting wax replica of a Giambologna sculpture by Urs Fischer.
A melting wax replica of a Giambologna sculpture by Urs Fischer. (Stefan Altenburger, MOCA )

Urs Fischer likes big gestures, and this year (April 21 to Aug. 19) MOCA is giving him the space to make them, devoting part of its Grand Avenue and Geffen buildings to a midcareer survey of the Swiss-born, New York-based artist. The show's curator, Jessica Morgan of the Tate Modern in London, gives us an early sense of what to expect.

How did you come to curate this show for MOCA?

Through my relationship with Urs. We've been doing projects now for 10 years or so. The first one was a big show in Iceland about [the influence of] Dieter Roth, the Icelandic/Swiss/German artist who used foodstuff, cheese, things that decay....

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But now Urs' work is at a different point — I think it's shifted since he moved to New York and has more of a pop influence. What fascinates me about Urs' work is that it's so informed, not just art but architecture, design, music, so plugged in on many levels.

Urs' work can be slippery or even shape-shifting — unpredictable visually. Do you see any strong through-lines connecting his work?

One is this fascination with the partial image — whether it's an occluded photograph like his movie star head shots or the mirror boxes where the images on top are deformed by this ricocheting of projections. This imagery has very much to do with the culture we live in, the imagery we quickly consume online or urban environments with their constant movement between advertising imagery, billboards and people on the streets.

You also see the partial image in his sculpture, like the pieces made out of wax that decompose right in front of you. Or for one new piece in the exhibition, he is merging two objects: a horse from a horse and carriage and a metal bed from a hospital. These two things are fused together, as if the bed is flying through the horse. It's an extraordinarily weird image and typical of Urs.

He once got a lot of attention for digging holes in gallery walls, and made a couple of big holes in the 2006 Whitney Biennial. Will he be digging through the walls at MOCA?

Definitely, because MOCA owns the wall piece with holes cut through them ["Portrait of a Single Raindrop," 2003]. It was at the Frieze Art Fair in London. I wanted to acquire it for the Tate, but Paul Schimmel acquired it for MOCA. It will be in Grand Avenue, and the way the piece functions is to totally destabilize the exhibition space. Where one expects pristine walls, it's like a giant has come in and made this incredible rough cut into quite large walls — it feels like a dramatic event has taken place within the space.

—Jori Finkel


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