Austrian artist Erwin Wurm's "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" is an installation of various sized pedestals, each supporting a single, unique, and deceptively genuine-looking pickled cucumber made of painted, cast acrylic.
When asked about the work, Wurm says: "Rather like potatoes, cucumbers are an age-old non-shape. There are millions of different cucumbers. No cucumber is the same as the next, rather like people. That appeals me a great deal."
The anthropomorphizing of everyday objects is a common tactic used by Wurm, whose most well known sculptures are obese or distorted vehicles and buildings. Here the artist creates a different kind of portrait, one built from the mixture of natural forms and a multitude of cultural connotations. Multi-layered, linguistically playful, and humorous, Wurm's work offers a wholly unique approach to the idea of sculpture and consequently, to the interpretation of our daily lives.
Erwin Wurm (b. 1954 Austria, lives and works in Austria) came to prominence with his "One Minute Sculptures," a project that he began during the 1980s. In these works, Wurm gives written or drawn instructions to participants that indicate actions or poses to perform with everyday objects such as chairs, buckets, or fruit. These sculptures are by nature ephemeral, and by incorporating photography and performance into the process, he challenges the formal qualities of sculpture as well as the boundaries between performance and daily life. While in this series he explores the idea of the human body as sculpture, in some of his more recent work, he anthropomorphizes everyday objects in unsettling ways, like contorting sausage-like forms into bronze sculptures in "Abstract Sculptures," or distorting and bloating the volume and shape of a car in "Fat Car." While Wurm considers humor an important tool in his work, there is always an underlying social critique, particularly in response to the Capitalist influences and resulting societal pressures that the artist sees as contrary to our internal ideals. Wurm has had solo exhibitions in many renowned international institutions, and in 2017 was chosen to represent Austria in the 57th Biennale.