Born 1973, Zurich, Switzerland; lives in Zurich, Switzerland, and Los Angeles, California

Urs Fischer’s artistic practice is founded on a consideration of the nature of substances, the act of making, and the unpredictable processes that can result from combining the two. With an extraordinarily wide range of materials—Styrofoam, clay, mirrors, fruit, wax, wood, glass, paint, sawdust, and silicone, to name a few—he resuscitates art historical genres such as still lifes, nudes, portraits, and landscapes in potent sculptures that reflect the complexity, wonder, and banality of everyday life. His works reverberate with material transformation and decay as well as with poetic internal collisions and contradictions that cause his sculptures to oscillate between seeming beautiful or ugly, elegant or awkward, graceful or burdened.

In a series from 2000, Fischer screwed together half a pear and half an apple, half a cucumber and half a banana, half an onion and half an eggplant. Each coupling was suspended from a single nylon string and left to decay, the forces of nature alternately attracting or repelling within each union. For his 2004 exhibition Kir Royal, he presented several recurring elements in his oeuvre—cats, chairs, female nudes, liquid drops, cigarette cartons, tea sets, and skeletons—spread throughout the space in various states of being and interaction. Three life-size female nudes in vaguely sexual poses, hand-sculpted from wax with several wicks embedded and then hand-painted, were set alight. Over the course of the exhibition, the figures melted away in hunks of barely discernable limbs and colored tendrils of molten wax that pooled onto the floor. Memories of a Blank Mind (2004) consists of a collection of handcrafted straight-back chairs, the “shadow” of which seems to be projected onto the wall behind them as if cast from a low-lying light source. In fact, this shadow is actually a large wood and mirror structure attached to the feet of the sculpted chairs in a gesture that upends expectations about reality, representation, scale, and perspective.

Bread House (2004) is a life-size cabin built from loaves of sourdough bread, expandable foam, and wood. The quaint alpine structure is set on an arrangement of Oriental carpets and inhabited by four young parakeets that haven’t yet learned to fly. Over time the house decays, shedding crumbs on the floor and emitting a distinct, pervasive odor. As with all of Fischer’s works, the meaning lies within the very substances and processes of its making, whereby ideas become material and materials take on a life of their own. JM


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Bread House, 2004 (installation view, Fondazione Nicola Trussardi, Milan, May 2005). Bread, wood, screws, expanding foam, and light, 144 x 209 1/8 x 185 7/8 in. (366 x 533 x 472 cm). Collection of Angela and Massimo Lauro; courtesy Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich, and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York