View of Lutz & Guggisberg's exhibition, showing concrete sculptures and untitled wall painting, all 2013; at Bob van Orsouw

 

 

In the past, the work of Swiss artists Andres Lutz and Anders Guggisberg, who have been working as a duo since 1996, has tended toward the excessive and hyperbolic, their installations usually featuring accumulations of many objects in many mediums. But their recent show of new works was relatively stark. Instead of a hodgepodge of items, here they presented 25 modestly sized, floor-bound concrete sculptures, a wall painting and a series of six photolithographs (all works 2013).

Resting on a cold, gray floor also made of concrete, the sculptures are a shade lighter and have an organic, sprouted quality, even though many of them look like scrambled machine parts. Each consists of a configuration of cast fragments and hand-crafted forms, and is given a name that relates to its shape. Some titles refer to manufactured objects, such as Apparatus, Column and Sledge, and others to living beings, including Ant, Sea Star and Mastodon, thus furthering the dichotomy and tension between civilization and nature that is also expressed in their facture. Buck consists of a smooth cast-concrete block on top of which sits an imprecisely hand-modeled, roughly textured blob with two hornlike appendages, also shaped by hand. Walking among these sculptures, one became immersed in an environment that only slowly revealed itself through each piece's singularity and multifaceted formal dynamism. Hence the viewer began to experience something akin to a walk through a forest clearing.

And it was precisely this sensation that the duo was attempting to elicit. The woods are an important motif for Lutz & Guggisberg, representing a place of mystery and fantasy, where one can get lost both physically and imaginatively. For the artists, the forest is the epitome of the natural, existing on the outskirts of civilization, where animals and plants are at home and humans are no longer in their element. In previous installations, Lutz & Guggisberg have used scavenged wood as found-object sculptures. This time, however, they conjure a forestlike atmosphere using manmade materials and references, along with processes that combine both the artisanal and manufactured.

On one large wall of the gallery, an untitled mural painted in a dark burgundy, water-based medium increased the sense of wilderness. Gestural and somewhat out of control, the piece was composed of irregular shapes, some organic and some almost geometric, that were dense along the bottom half but opened up to white toward the top, as the woods would yield to the sky. It also established the free spirit of the artists, in contrast to the more precise, reserved sculptural works.

The last component of the exhibition was a series of photolithographs titled "Strunke im Schlaf" (Stumps Asleep), which appear to be uninflected black at first. However, the pictures, made of black ink on black paper, each focus on a tree stump nestled in the woods. The artists retrieved the photographs for these works from their archives. The images oscillate between revealing and concealing, as light, depending on the viewer's angle, plays games with perception. The feeling of disorientation, as one might experience in the forest, was preserved throughout the exhibition in a simple and consistent way. Lutz & Guggisberg made a case here for less being more.