Urs Fischer (B. 1973)
milled aluminum panel, acrylic primer, gesso, acrylic ink, acrylic silkscreen medium, acrylic paint, acrylic polymer clear coat
96 x 72 x 1 in. (243.8 x 182.9 x 2.5 cm.)
Executed in 2010.
Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Brought to you by

Koji Inoue
Koji Inoue

Lot Essay

A vintage publicity headshot, altered and enlarged to a monumental scale, then obstructed by a silkscreened mask of a bent screw presents a clash of representational systems in Urs Fischer's Pinky that is both convulsive and darkly humorous. With its distinctive combination of visceral force, altered materiality and unstable forms that play with the accepted perceptions of reality and modify conventional relationships between the viewer and object, Fischer has titled this respective series his "Problem Paintings." Here, the 'problem' is that the bowed utilitarian object, obstructs the visage of Joan Crawford's Old Hollywood photograph.

"I think you'd have to live in the forest not to have been influenced by Hollywood," Fischer exclaims about the use of Hollywood publicity shots in his work. "I think the entertainment and advertising industries shape everybody these days. It's like the Catholic Church; Hollywood is like the Vatican. It shapes how you imagine the world to be, who you want to be, what's good, what's bad"(U. Fischer in an interview with J. Griffin, 'Urs Fischer, the reluctant interviewee,' The Art Newspaper, Issue 234, April 2012 n.p.). And yet, the irony behind Fischer's painting is that a screw is more commonly recognizable than Hollywood's prominent Golden Age star, Joan Crawford. "You have to put something that they want to see behind," the artist explained. "Most of the people in these paintings are from old black-and-white movie stills that I've really worked on. The kids have no clue who these people are. Zero. They don't even know Kirk Douglas" (U. Fischer in an interview with N. Wakefield, Urs Fischer x Garage Magazine, February 2013 at Borrowed from a 1953 publicity image for her movie Torch Song, Fischer has drastically altered the poised image of Crawford to evoke the dramatic, tormented life in which the actress lived. "It's a specific way of sculpting an image of a person that is not personal; it's idealized," the artist stresses regarding this particular body of work. My daughter comes in and she doesn't say: 'Oh, that's Veronica Lake.' She says: 'Lemon! Mushroom! Salad!' The things in the foreground are much more universal than the things in the background. That's what people misunderstand because they look at the wrong layer of the painting"" (U. Fischer in an interview with J. Griffin op. cit.).

The effect is uncanny, and likewise reminiscent of the Surrealist master René Magritte. The screw covering the figure's face in Fischer's work recalls the apple covering Magritte's in his self-portrait The Son of Man or the drapery covering the kissing figures in The Lovers. There is an element of drama to all these works, and this appropriately follows the image backgrounds to Fischer's celebrated body of work from which Pinky derives. At the same time, Pinky operates on a richly visual level, affecting the viewer in much more of a visceral than cerebral manner. In many ways, this liberates the work from an overly linguistic interpretation and is, in part, what makes it so appealing. In any case, Fischer believes that the over-explanation of art is reductive to its possibilities, thus unnecessarily limiting it. "Art is like people," he explains, "you cannot reduce them to a couple of sentences. They are much more complex, much richer" (U. Fischer in an interview with M. Gioni, in B. Curiger, M. Gioni & J. Morgan (eds.), Urs Fischer: Shovel in a Hole, exh. cat., New Museum, New York, 2009, p. 62). Pinky follows precisely this philosophy, articulating it to great effect according to Fischer's own aesthetic.

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