A graffitied former Chase bank branch on New York's Lower East Side and an uptown Park Avenue storefront will soon play host to a group of new bronze sculptures by Urs Fischer. The downtown show, "mermaid / pig / bro w/ hat" (Apr. 3-May 23), is in a temporary space at 104 Delancey St. The uptown show, "last supper" (Apr. 3-May 8), will inaugurate Park & 75, the latest outpost of the international megagallery Gagosian, located at 821 Park Ave. at 75th Street.
Fischer, 41, is known for work in the widest range of modes and mediums, from gargantuan sculptures that are metal casts of roughly formed handfuls of clay to mirrored boxes with images of everyday items adhered to their surfaces. In 2008, he dug a giant hole in the floor at Gavin Brown's Enterprise (his other New York dealer), and called the piece You.
At the Delancey Street bank branch, after entering through doors spray-painted with graffiti tags, visitors face a row of gaping holes where there used to be automated teller machines. "When there are ATMs there, it has a certain authority," Fischer told A.i.A. on Tuesday, walking through the space. "Without the machines it's just Sheetrock and cables."
The dual-venue show comprises over two dozen works based on objects made during the artist's 2013 exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles (MOCA). Over the four weeks preceding the show, 1,500 visitors created clay sculptures in collaboration with Fischer and his studio staff.
This resulted in rough-hewn, naive-looking depictions of subjects ranging from Saint Sebastian to a giant foot, from a fluted column to a police officer arresting a naked man. A selection of the sculptures from MOCA have been cast in bronze for the upcoming show, complete with handprints and other imperfections. Each comes in an edition of two plus an artist's proof. The gallery declined to divulge prices. Fischer's 23-foot-tall bronze sculpture Untitled (Lamp/Bear), 2005-06, sold for $6.8 million at Christie's New York in 2011.
The former bank walls are still painted in brown and beige tones ("cat-food-colored modernism," Fischer called it), and the Chase logo glows above the counter where tellers once worked. It makes for an unusual venue for a gallery whose facilities are normally considerably more posh. At the same time, the site's former identity as a branch of an enormous financial institution ironically underlines the status of Gagosian Gallery as a multinational corporation.
Fischer played down the bank venue, saying he and the gallery had considered various spaces during a two-week search. He was happy enough with what he called its "glued-on corporate image," though.
Uptown, at the 1,000-square-foot Park & 75, Fischer is showing a 25-foot-long sculpture of the Last Supper. "The last supper was the last thing we made [in L.A.], on the last day," he said. The new venue is in a six-story brick building that, Fischer said, provides a break from the giant, imperial-seeming residential buildings that surround it. It was formerly a kids' store, a deli and a florist.
Fischer remarked that working with the public at the L.A. exhibition offered freedom from restrictions, which he opined is much needed in today's art world. "It was out of control, not controlled like in the studio, where you might overthink things," he said. "It's about making things, in the broadest possible way. In art school now, you have to write essays before you can make art."