The Swiss Artist Talks Art and Celebrity With Curator and Commentator Neville Wakefield
A banana, an egg and a carrot are just a few of the surreal masks devised by Urs Fischer in this special selection from his latest series, The Problem with Paintings, from the upcoming fourth issue of the biannual magazine Garage. Known for confronting our notions of identity and celebrity in works such as Problem Paintings, where images of Hollywood icons are obscured with foods and household objects, here the Zurich-born artist continues the theme by playfully casting real-life subjects to interact with their fruit and vegetable disguises. Garage is the brainchild of Russian collector and LACMA trustee Dasha Zhukova, whose ground-breaking Garage Center for Contemporary Culture opened in Moscow in 2008 to great acclaim. With a cover fashion story featuring works by Cindy Sherman shot by Patrick Demarchelier, the next edition of the cross-disciplinary title seeks to challenge the concept of modern identity—and the vanity that may accompany it. In this interview excerpt, Fischer sits down with curator Neville Wakefield to bridge the everyday with pop and fine art.
Neville Wakefield: Are you trying to erase the distinction between formal artwork and work that deals with pop culture? I’m thinking about your series of Problem Paintings. Are they mash-ups of pop culture and everyday objects?
Urs Fischer: For the Garage project we tried to see how it would be if you didn’t print it, if you juxtaposed these things in real life. So they’re all photos of things in real life—a kind of homemade version, where you lay actual eggs on a face and then photograph it.
NW: What’s the logic of the juxtaposition? Is it like the surrealists’ idea of the sewing machine and the umbrella, only here the chance encounter is between, say, a pickle and a Hollywood star?
UF: It’s different. There are usually two photos—not in this magazine, but in other ones I’ve made. It’s basically a collage, a juxtaposition. The funny thing is that fruits are more universal than movie stars.
NW: People want to recognize the Hollywood side of it, not the fruit side of it. But everyone knows a kiwi, not everyone knows Rita Hayworth.
UF: You have to put something that they want to see behind. 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.
Playtime With Celebrated Creatives Courtesy of Dasha Zhukova's Title
Childhood classics such as snakes & ladders are transformed into a ghoulish sculpture by artist Ashley Bickerton and the sweet pastels of Candy Land are given new twists and turns by writer Derek Blasberg in this compendium of games, selected from the latest edition of Dasha Zhukova’s biannual fashion and art magazine, Garage. Zhukova launched the IRIS Foundation, a non-profit organization out of which arose The Garage Center for Contemporary Culture in 2008, housed in an imposing former bus depot in her native Moscow, Russia. Her cutting-edge magazine followed in 2011, mobilizing Zhukova's stellar network in and out of the art world to contribute to the lushly printed, avant-garde title, due for release on February 9. NOWNESS catches up with the entrepreneur, philanthropist, collector, curator and editor for an extra look at the game-plan behind the printed page.
What person alive or dead would you most like to have dinner with?
Dasha Zhukova: Catherine the Great.
What's your favorite after dinner game?
In another life what career would you have?
DZ: A pastry chef.
What, in terms of branding, do you hold in high esteem?
DZ: I think the most successful brands are those that are true to themselves. If you try to be something you’re not, the public catches on very quickly.
How do you feel that brand collaborations affect an artist's identity?
DZ: I don’t think they do, necessarily, unless they are doing them too often or what they are doing is too far off from their traditional practice. If anything, I think artist collaborations can greatly help a brand’s image if they are an organic match.
NASA’s Manned Space Program is Immortalized in the Filmmaker’s Eerie Analog Ode
Artist and filmmaker Marco Brambilla salutes the golden age of space travel with Atlantis (OV-104), a video portrait of NASA’s beloved last manned shuttle that distills the dark, unsettling calm of the great beyond. Flickering images captured by an early 80s Ikegami camera recall early space transmissions and deep-sea exploration shots as they reveal the ghostly shape of the film’s eponymous spacecraft. Brambilla enhanced the organic quality of the footage by re-photographing segments of film through a vintage Sony tube monitor. “I wanted the coverage to feel imprecise, like a spotlight on the wreckage of a submarine,” explains the internationally exhibited installation artist and Kanye West collaborator, whose own enthusiasm for space travel began with a visit to the Kennedy Space Center as a child. With the help of public arts organization Creative Time, New York-based Brambilla scored access to the seasoned vessel on the day before it left to be restored for its debut at NASA’s Florida headquarters, where it will be on display beginning this Friday, over a quarter century after its first flight. Atlantis (OV-104) premieres at Christopher Grimes Gallery in Santa Monica the following day. “Atlantis is the last of a national program that was once the world’s most prestigious and experimental,” says Brambilla. “This marks the end of a huge effort that sought to bring people together.”
Source of the name
Atlantis was named after a two-masted sailing ship that was operated for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute from 1930-1966.
Number of missions
Distance travelled since its first launch in 1985
Time spent in space
306 days, 14 hours, 12 minutes, 43 seconds.
Most time spent in space on single mission
13 days, 20 hours, 12 minutes, 44 seconds.
Number of planetary probes deployed
Two—Magellan for Venus and Galileo for Jupiter.
Two—SpaceCamp and Deep Impact.