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I went to see Urs Fischer's solo show Marguerite de Ponty at the New Museum yesterday, and I was appalled to see so much space devoted to such blatantly derivative work. Appropriation as a statement is one thing--I got over my rage at Sherrie Levine's career a few years ago--but presenting copies of other artist's pieces as your own is another. Fischer's rip-offs are inferior even to Levine's because they are technically lazy. The aluminum enlargements of small pieces of clay could be interesting, but their grimy, cheap looking finish destroys the appeal. Fischer wants to make fabricated metal monoliths in the style of Jeff Koons or Zhan Wang, but he won't expend the energy to do them well.

Droopy sculptures of crutches, a piano, and a lamp post are the most appalling objects in the show. Fischer lifts tropes that are directly identified with other artists: melting pianos and crutches litter Salvador Dali's dreamscapes, and soft sculptures are the most distinct invention of Claes Oldenburg's career. The inclusion of the collapsing lamppost is just awkward: the late Martin Kippenberger used the same idea in many of his installations. The lamp post was almost a self-portrait, its swaying form standing in for the flamboyantly alcoholic artist. Fischer and Kippenberger are both eclectic bad-boy sculptural dilettantes with major retrospectives open right now, but The Problem Prespective is far more exciting and challenging than Marguerite de Ponty. It's imprudent of Fischer to remind viewers of a similar, superior artist.

Dangling croissants and wiggling tongues are carelessly conceived boilerplate Dada; the hall of mirrored photo boxes is more impressive. Fischer handles subtleties of tone and texture masterfully in two dimensions, and the best piece in the show suggests that sculpture may not be his forte. One of the galleries is wallpapered with photos of its own walls and ceiling, placed slightly off-kilter to reveal their nature. The photographs capture colors created by fluorescent light that are invisible to the human eye. I'm not sure what process created this effect, but the results are beautiful. The exit sign looks seared into the wall, and the gentle gradient of secondary colors is hypnotic. This sensitivity is markedly absent from the spray-painted piano.

Marguerite de Ponty undermines the New Museum's image as an alternative to the practices of the museum-industrial complex. Urs Fischer's work is a tired redux of Koonsian (or Hirstian) spectacle, without the polish or economic relevance. If the New Museum is to add anything to the cultural landscape, it must take viewers further afield.


“What a terrific articulation of the essential blandness of Fischer's ostensible provocations, and of the New Museum's over-reliance on these provocations still be capable of provocation, or, at the very least, of still being trendy. I'm surprised you were so surprised by the contrived nature of the work therein, though; every show I've been to at the New Museum since it opened in its present incarnation – and I haven't been to all, so I'd love to hear if you or anyone else has had more positive responses to any of their other exhibitions – has had the stale stench of repackaged ideas and aesthetics.”
Posted over 5 years ago
“Sorry: "still being capable," that is.”
Posted over 5 years ago
Zoe Roller replies:
“Thanks! I'm glad you were annoyed by the show too; some of my friends liked it and I was dismayed by their enthusiasm. I haven't been in New York long so I don't really know the museum's history, but I can tell how desperate they are to be risque. I really liked the other two shows I've seen there; despite the self-importance, Younger than Jesus was really good. A lot of the pieces were annoying, or overly zeitgeist-y (i.e. the OMG monument which was a disgrace to all art) but it was exciting to see excellent work from artists all over the world. I had only heard of a few artists before I saw the show and I discovered some amazing work. Also, a lot of the best pieces were by women (who were not Elizabeth Peyton (I hate her so MUCH)) or Middle Eastern people (some even spanned both demographics!) which is sadly still kind of revelatory for a major museum. I also loved the Emory Douglas show. His work is great, and it was presented in such a way that the museum seemed lively and fun, rather than the cavernous hall of mediocrity that now showcases Fischer's stupid tongue. ”
Posted over 5 years ago
“This is really great Zoe. See also: ”
Posted over 5 years ago
Zoe Roller replies:
“Thanks Chris! Where did that come from? It's hilarious! I love how smarmy everyone looks. The New Museum is really a tragedy.”
Posted over 5 years ago
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Urs Fischer


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Martin Kippenberger
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Jeff Koons
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