Half Big Suit

Erwin Wurm

Half big Suit, 2016

Lacquered aluminum, ed. 2/3

118.25 x 84.75 x 31.5 Inches

Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong

© 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / Bildrecht, Vienna

Austrian artist Erwin Wurm works between the art world categories of sculpture and performance, fine art photography and documentation, and between comedy and tragedy. He is best known for his One Minute Sculptures, begun in 1996, a set of objects (clothing, furniture, fruit) with simple instructions for audience interaction. While the actions themselves are more absurd than transformative, it is that gap—between meaningful gesture and futile act—that is at the heart of Wurm’s work. There is a melancholy to his familiar and hopeful objects, the artist encouraging us to still find value in the play of the everyday.

Austrian artist Erwin Wurm works between the art world categories of sculpture and performance, fine art photography and documentation, and between comedy and tragedy. He is best known for his One Minute Sculptures, begun in 1996, a set of objects (clothing, furniture, fruit) with simple instructions for audience interaction. While the actions themselves are more absurd than transformative, it is that gap—between meaningful gesture and futile act—that is at the heart of Wurm’s work. There is a melancholy to his familiar and hopeful objects, the artist encouraging us to still find value in the play of the everyday.

Over the past decade he has explored the improbable expansion of our consumer society with his bulbous houses, suits and cars; the comical shape of food, like hot dogs and pickles; the unfortunate relationship we have with the furniture that populate our homes and catch dust. His sculptural work is part Vaudeville, part prat fall, with a generous dose of empathy for each.

Wurm’s Half Big Suit up-ends the traditional subjects of monuments—kings and generals—and celebrates instead everyone who shapes and populates our community. His cheerful figure is in casual Friday pink, while his left leg juts out, like the mast of a ship, looking for equilibrium. Wurm’s hapless business person brings a note of cheer to Milwaukee’s business-centric downtown.

While much art is serious—about our relation to each other and to society—Wurm doesn’t mind having a little fun as well. Life itself is a tragi-comedy, filled with moments of joy and terror, love and loss. Wurm’s suit doesn’t mind being the brunt of a joke.

Erwin Wurm was born in Bruck an der Mur, Styria, Austria, and lives and works between Vienna and Limburg, Austria. Wurm graduated from University of Graz, Austria, in 1977, and the Gestaltungslehre University of Applied Art and Academy of Fine Art, Vienna in 1982. He was one of the Austrian representatives to the Venice Biennale in 2017, and has had one-person shows at the Albertina Museum, Vienna; Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, São Paulo; Berlinische Galerie, Berlin; Schindler House, MAK Center for Art and Architecture, Los Angeles; Bangkok Art and Culture Center, Thailand; the Indianapolis Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Kraków, Poland; the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga, Spain; and The Bass, Miami Beach. Select group exhibitions include Performing for the Camera, Tate Modern, London; Precarious Balance, Centre of Contemporary Art, Christchurch, New Zealand; HEIMsuchung: Uncanny Spaces in Contemporary Art, Kunstmuseum Bonn, Germany; The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today, Kunsthaus Zürich, Switzerland, traveled to The Museum of Modern Art, New York; and Temporary Structures: Performing Architecture in Contemporary Art, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, Massachusetts.

Wurm’s work is in numerous international public collections, including: the Albertina, Vienna; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga, Spain; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Kunsthaus Zürich, Switzerland; Kunstmuseum Bonn, Germany; Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna, Italy; The Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Vancouver Art Gallery; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.

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