Franz West
612 N Western Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90004
Thursday, October 26 at 6:00 PM 8:00 PM
Ends Dec 16, 2023
David Zwirner is pleased to announce an exhibition of works by Austrian artist Franz West on view at the gallery’s Los Angeles location. This exhibition will survey a range of West’s sculptures, works on paper, and installations produced between the late 1970s and early 2000s. Image: Franz West, Telefonat (Phone Call), 1997 (detail) © Archiv Franz West, © Estate Franz West Courtesy Archiv Franz West, Estate Franz West, and David Zwirner Emerging in Vienna in the early 1970s, West developed a unique aesthetic that engaged equally high and low reference points and privileged social interaction as an intrinsic component of his work. By playfully manipulating everyday materials and imagery in novel ways, he created objects that served to redefine art as a social experience, calling attention to the ways it is presented to the public and how viewers interact with works of art and with each other. A significant grouping of West’s self-coined “legitimate sculptures” from the 1990s—colorful, abstract, painted papier-mâché and plaster forms that rest on unusual supports—will anchor the presentation. While the interactive works he had focused on in the 1970s and 1980s remained characteristic of his practice, in this decade West became increasingly interested in autonomous sculpture. With these works, he sought to fundamentally question the function and legitimacy of the work of art by inviting the viewer to question its larger context. In Three Times the Same (1998), composed of three totemic, painted papier-mâché forms each mounted on a pedestal of a different height, West sets up an implicit relationship between the elements, each informing the viewer's understanding of the other. Similarly, in Telefonat (1997), two sets of brightly colored sculptural forms that resemble an abstracted telephone receiver and cradle are placed on abutting studio tables as if communicating with each other. Also on view will be examples of West’s collaborations with his friends and fellow artists, including Janc Szeni and Heimo Zobernig, underscoring the importance of creative dialogue in his practice. Limerick (1994), first presented in the artist’s solo exhibition that year at David Zwirner, New York, was made on site with Zwirner’s assistance by applying thick layers of yellow paint to a surfboard. Slyly referencing his gallerist’s hobby and frequent pastime, West’s sculpture is at once recognizable and completely unusable as a surfboard, creating a playful disjuncture between object and function. A second gallery will feature a significant and rarely seen group of the artist’s early Passstücke (Adaptives), which he began making in the 1970s. These roughly hewn, abstracted sculptural forms are intended to be handled by the viewer in a manner of their choosing, thereby “adapting” the works to the viewer’s own physical being and context. Many of the forms are reminiscent of everyday objects, allowing the viewer to make loose associations while still handling the objects in an unconditioned way. Also included will be a grouping of West’s early drawings, which share the irreverent aesthetic and humor of his sculptures. In these compositions from the 1970s, West depicts figures in enigmatic scenes. Consistent with his later collages and sculptures, his figurative drawings of this period convey a mood of comic unease through the discordant relationships between people, objects, and their environment. Likewise, a group of West’s Namensbilder (Nameplates)—painted papier-mâché forms inscribed with the names of people with whom the artist was acquainted—echo the formal elements of the Passstücke while underscoring the communal and performative aspects of his work from this period. Furniture was an important part of West’s aesthetic output, and a number of examples of the artist’s divans, tables, and chairs will be placed throughout the exhibition, creating a communal space where visitors can rest and reflect on the artwork and their experience of it. A program of the artist's films from the 1990s, made in collaboration with Austrian filmmaker Bernhard Riff, will supplement the exhibition. West’s work was the subject of two major institutional presentations in Los Angeles: the survey exhibition To Build a House You Start With the Roof, on view at LACMA in 2009, and his first American site-specific museum installation, Test, presented on the roof of MOCA in 1994. This is the eleventh presentation of the artist’s work at David Zwirner since 1993, when his solo exhibition Investigations of American Art inaugurated the gallery’s program. This was followed by solo exhibitions at David Zwirner in 1993, 1994, 1996, 1998 (with Heimo Zobernig), and 1999. Following the artist’s death, the gallery organized an exhibition of his early work in 2004, a small survey in 2009, a show in 2014 that focused on work from the 1990s—accompanied by a catalogue published by David Zwirner Books, with essays by Eva Badura-Triska, Veit Loers, and Bernhard Riff—and a 2019 overview of the artist's work in London. Earlier this year, concurrent exhibitions of West’s work were on view at the gallery’s Paris and New York locations.
  • Curate LA Partner