Franz West’s career path (Vienna, 1947) has led him to become one the most recognised central-European artists on today's scene. Trained and influenced by the European avant-garde and Viennese Actionism from the Sixties and Seventies, he represented his country at the Venice Biennale in 1990 and participated twice in the Documenta in Kassel, in 1992 and 1997. He has been featured in major retrospectives at the principle museums in Europe, although not in Spain until now.
This exhibition at the Palacio de Velázquez Parque del Retiro in Madrid aims to uncover the work of this versatile artist who has created sculptures, paintings, collages and installations with equal success. All his pieces stake irony and humour, features that, along with his personal aesthetic, so very ingrained in Central European sculptural tradition, make West one of the most charismatic artists of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.
This retrospective collection begins; it could not have been done otherwise, with Adaptables (Pabstückes) which West created during the Seventies. These ergonomic prostheses, designed for the visitor to wear them on their own body, are completely manual and fulfil the role of making our neuroses visible. Despite exhibiting the pieces on the ground during his 1980 presentation along with mirrors and photographs of people using them, for this exhibition they are displayed on pedestals.
The pieces of furniture created by West are preceded by other works from artists such as Dieter Roth and Richard Artschwager and, like the Adaptables, these iron proto-chairs and divans demand to be used by the spectator. His style is inspired by the Viennese Secession and their names are not at all devoid of parody: Diván Velázquez (Velázquez Divan), Sillón Rembrandt (Rembrandt Armchair) and Sillón Bellini (Bellini Armchair), all from 1989 and made from steel and newspaper. It is important for West that his work can be touched, handled and used by the spectator, breaking with their usual passive role.
During the early nineties, West reflects on the pedestal entity, causing a metamorphosis in him that leads him to being substituted with televisions, cupboards, suitcases, boxes, fire extinguishers and refrigerators. Another one of West’s common reflections is the conventional duality between outer space and inner space in relation to the works that are placed inside them. Hence the title of this exhibition, In-Out for which the artist has decided to place a piece in the middle of the lake in front of the Palacio de Cristal.
Four colossal heads of lemurs, alluding to animist rituals, and the installation Galerie (Gallery) (1992) reflect his production during the Nineties. Gemeyer, Internet Raum (Gemeyer, Internet Room) (1999-2000) is another installation exhibited in this retrospective, which is rounded off with an extensive set of collages and paintings among which is the series L'art pour l'art (1975-1977) composed of twenty-three collages and thirty-two paintings on magazine paper.
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