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Art review: Urs Fischer at Gagosian Gallery

March 29, 2012 |  6:00 pm


Urs Fischer’s exhibition at Gagosian Gallery is a big disappointment. Titled “Beds & Problem Paintings,” it feels as if it’s been phoned in. Worse, its lackadaisical attitude is at odds with the spare-no-expense production of its slick, custom-made objects.

While effort, hard work and thoughtfulness are not the only ingredients that go into a work of art, they are almost entirely absent from Fisher’s pompous pieces.

The three sculptures (one in each of the three first-floor showrooms) are unimaginative rip-offs of works by Charles Ray and Robert Therrien.

Fischer’s two life-size beds are overshadowed by Therrien’s whimsically weird beds, which he has been making for a couple of decades, and Ray’s “Unpainted Sculpture” from 1997, an exact copy, in Fiberglass, of a crashed Pontiac. Fischer’s sculpture that resembles an ordinary wood table likewise borrows too directly from Ray’s 1989 “Tabletop,” which also uses hidden mechanisms to provide special effects.

Fischer’s preposterously big pictures, on nearly 12-by-8 foot aluminum panels, are portraits of people whose faces can’t be seen because they are blocked by images of disproportionally large objects: a sliced chile pepper, a mushroom and a steel bolt that appears to have wilted. Fischer’s men are pushed into the background by similarly Freudian stand-ins for their genitals: a mushy banana, an uprooted turnip and a steel screw that seems to have been made in the same place as Salvador Dali’s melting clocks or Claes Oldenburg’s soft sculptures.

In Fischer’s hands, tragedy is bypassed as history is immediately repeated as farce.

 -- David Pagel

More art reviews from the Los Angeles Times

Gagosian Gallery, 456 N. Camden Drive, (310) 271-9400, through April 7. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

 Image: Urs Fischer exhibition at Gagosian Gallery. Credit: Mats Nordman