A common thread running through much of Urs Fischer’s diverse practice – which makes use of many materials, concepts and approaches – is the idea of playing with scale and space, which in this Glasgow exhibition works to bring the ideas of the infinite and the finite into opposition.
For the Modern Institute show, the Swiss-born, New York-based artist has created a site-specific sculpture which bisects the gallery space. It takes the familiar form of a rope fence on wooden posts, though on closer inspection Fischer’s replica is cast in bronze, and it starts larger than life before gradually reducing along its 15 metre length, ending at a minute size. It creates the impression of being a visible section from a scale which runs from infinitely large to infinitely small. This playing with perspective renders the object both familiar and uncanny – an effect enhanced by the bronze casting, which is designed to change its patina over time, in a way similar to yet unsettlingly different from the natural weathering of the everyday wooden fence which it resembles.
Fischer’s work draws upon Pop art, Dada and Surrealism, a lineage hinted at in another aspect of the installation: the cartoonish oversized green apples which hang from the ceiling of the gallery as though they are time-lapse images marking out part of the arc of the trajectory of a ball.
While these experiments with space evoke the idea of infinity, by contrast Fischer has also produced three prints of identical sizes. Two, facing each other across the gallery, seem identical at first glance, digital collages which are based on superimposing two headshots of the artist upon each other, one recent, one a partly-pixelated scan of an image of him as a child. The third is also an image of the artist, though splattered with heavy abstract paintwork. Yet on close inspection, it becomes apparent the paintwork is digitally generated – the surface of the print is disquietingly pristine and smooth instead of the heavy impasto relief a viewer would expect when viewing the dramatic and violent brush strokes at a distance.
At Fischer’s recent exhibition at MOCA Los Angeles, curator Jessica Morgan noted that Fischer’s work explores three notional spaces; the private world of the studio, the public space of objects and images, and the world of pure fantasy or fiction. Key to his work is the idea of treating an object from one domain in the manner of an object from another, giving them the unsettling and liminal quality which is perhaps the signature of this artist, and which is clearly present in this latest installation.
Urs Fischer; Modern Institute, Osborne Street, Glasgow; Until 29 August; www.themoderninstitute.com
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1. Urs Fischer, Installation View, Modern Art Institute, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Modern Art Institute.