Lehmann Maupin Gallery announces its first exhibition with Erwin Wurm, entitled gulp, on view 4 November – 4 December 2010 at 540 West 26th Street. With wry wit and a formalist approach Erwin Wurm uses simple materials and everyday objects in his performances, photography, video, installations and large freestanding sculptures, all presented in this inaugural exhibition.
In gulp Wurm introduces the theme of the social envelope—clothing, food, furniture, cars, houses—in order to annotate the fragility of both the individual and collective identity behind it. Wurm uses these items as personifications of a social context through which individuals attempt to express themselves all the while being formed and deformed by it. In works such as Telekinetischer Masturbator, a sculpture of a man without arms, wearing a real shirt, and Me Under LSD, a single extended hand supporting a large cloud-like structure, Wurm translates psychological and mental realities into physical realities. The layers in which Wurm surrounds the body, both metaphorically and literally, the extensive fattening-up or thinning-down of people and things, are, like his softened architecture, sculptural metaphors for an existential insecurity about the boundaries of oneself. This idea is relayed in the Psychos series, which shows the human body in various poses, hidden under sweaters and pullovers. In sculptures such as Big Coat, a series of works relating the human body to basic geometric shapes, Wurm questions the relationship between inner and outer and the dominance of the material world over the subjective, which increasingly seems deprived of its free will. Only through an anarchic deviance is momentary individuality found, however, this requires abandonment of one’s familiar social context.
The viewer becomes an active participant in Wurm’s dialogue with the paradoxes of contemporary society and the vocabulary of sculpture. "I want to address serious matters, but in a light way. I want to reach more than just an elite circle of insiders,” the artist has said. “My work speaks about the whole entity of a human being: the physical, the spiritual, the psychological and the political." Using performance as a starting point, Wurm’s sculpture gives physical form to the intangible while also highlighting the delicate nature of identity.
Erwin Wurm was born in 1954 in Bruck an der Mur / Styria, Austria and lives and works in Vienna. Known for his uniquely humorous approach to formalism, Wurm's multi-disciplinary works have appeared in exhibitions worldwide. The artist’s recent solo shows include Narrow Mist at the Ullens Center of Contemporary Art, Beijing, China, Liquid Reality, Kunstmuseum Bonn, Bonn, Germany, Erwin Wurm, Kunstbau / Lenbachhaus, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, Germany, The Artist Who Swallowed The World, Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, St. Gallen, Switzerland, Das lächerliche Leben eines ernsten Mannes, das ernste Leben eines lächerlichen Mannes, Deichtorhallen Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany, Erwin Wurm - Hamlet, Kunsthaus Zurich, Switzerland, Erwin Wurm at the Musée d'Art Contemporain de Lyon in France, and Glue Your Brain at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, Australia. Wurm’s work was included in the exhibitions The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2010 and the Third Moscow Biennial in 2009.
Works by Wurm are included in prestigious collections throughout the world at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, the Walker Art Center, Museum Ludwig, Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, Musèe d`Art Contemporain de Lyon, and Centre Pompidou, among others.