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WHAT PLINTHS? Erwin Wurm @ Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac & Sarah Lucas supporting Franz West @ Tate Modern



Doppel Kuss & Peace Restrained, Verso, Erwin Wurm, 2018

Erwin Wurm, New Work

Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, more specifically Ely House, London. 19 February – 23 March 2019. Art works by Erwin Wurm

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Franz West TATE modern, 20 February - 2 June, 2019 More specifically, the curious plinths made by Sarah Lucas, a former friend and collaborator of the late West.


A joint write up thingy, based on my experiences at TWO exhibitions in close succession: Erwin Wurm @ Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac and Franz West at Tate Modern. This only being made possible by tunnel vision when viewing works (and when cherry picking exhibitions to visit) - I have been considering my recent rejection of the plinth that I stated last term, I made a promise to myself to never rely on or introduce a plinth to my works... Due to them holding far too much meaning and very specific, historical connotations, a world that I am not part of. As well as the fact that they look quite like seaside town art shop displays, or the ones you get in Clarks shoes. ANYWAY! What's my point here? What did I take away from this experience? Well, I of course enjoyed seeing Wurm's pieces displayed on repurposed and crudely painted furniture. The display has been heavily considered and becomes integral to the sculpture(s) on top, the sort-of-but-sort-of-not plinth is part of the work, various components speaking as one. Great stuff. Getting a metaphysical reach around from one of my favourite artists feels good, further confirming some of my stubborn pet hates in relation to curation/art making.


Ear Pointer, Erwin Wurm, 2018

Of course, Wurm probably has some other reasons up his sleeves for making these decisions, I suspect making a dig at European design culture, being from Austria. As well as being from a different generation which was at one time almost entirely held up by a flat pack, veneer coated craze, this is a hard fact, because I remember seeing it when going round to my dads flat.


But to me, this quirky furniture design joke, made to be told to upper class audiences (generally speaking) is skewed. Instead, I am reminded of my childhood home, the heavily outdated, worn furniture I was surrounded by, no doubt sourced from benefit friendly, second hand shops. When I stare at them for a weirdly long time I start to think about council houses, about growing class division and austerity, food banks and the rise of poverty in general, despite what the news has been saying. Slightly awkward, humbling but mostly scary when stood in the heart of Mayfair.


Double Navel, Erwin Wurm, 2018

Some further key points that may not require long anecdotes:

  • Still acknowledging the fundamental function of a plinth without (sneakily ignoring) some of the sticky connotations

  • Farty Up-cycling, Expensive AF Shabby Chique

  • Reject SOME of the original function of the object, but keep some

  • Points toward domesticity in general Tired 70's/80's/90's aesthetics

  • Half painted white and slightly broken - Referencing the white cube

  • Cheap as chips


Various works, Franz West (Sarah Lucas plinths)

Here's the Franz West bit!! Actually, It's not really about West at all, it's about Sarah Lucas.

The punky, wayyy cool, once very trendy (now slightly less but still quite trendy) and one of my key look up to'ers because of her many influential works. Lucas created the plinths for the West show at Tate Modern, huh! Of course, West's work was no doubt heavily influential to the decision making in the sort-of-but-sort-of-not plinth making process, but let's not think about that.

I have admired Lucas' work for many years due to her ability to deliver parts of her character so effectively through her art. Most peoples personality can be seen within works, but Lucas seems to have it down. I knowingly part pretty far from logic when I make the following statement: but it must be said that I get especially fantastic vibes and feel a lot of relate-ability with Lucas when I see her artwork. There's a whole lot of it that isn't aimed for me specifically (I'm talking intended target audience), but in any case, I have always been able to appreciate how the maker can be seen in the 'product'.

This is obviously made possible through repeated branding, everyone does it, or at least tries... but more interestingly, by deeply considering available materials, by understanding different objects thoroughly, dissecting them, questioning the semiotics from expanded and outside perspectives, Lucas has been able to communicate in a very sharp and efficient language. There is a great amount of control and sensitivity at play.


Various works, Franz West (Sarah Lucas plinth)

It isn't exactly breaking news that objects are subliminally/ignorantly gendered as soon as they're observed, before we even think we are thinking, we have already thought - To take blatant advantage of this fact is clearly worth doing, guiding the audience: Hammers, eggs, boulders, hard hats, vases, desks, exhaust pipes, curtains... You get it yayeyayah. And all of the above is why I think these concrete, wooden (MDF?) and cardboard 'plinths' are cool as heck, despite being a fair bit more traditional than Wurm's mentioned above. With hugs and kisses,

Ya' plinth specifying pal,

Mr M. Smith P.S: The rest of the Franz West show was good as well P.P.S: So was the rest of the Erwin Wurm show

Who the Heck wrote this? Mitchell Smith Artist & Writer www.msmith.art

Want a review? Nice one, get in touch: mitchellsmithart@gmail.com