KÖNIG GALERIE is proud to present SUBJECT, the first solo show by Erwin Wurm in our Vienna gallery. The centrepiece of the show is the ICONS series.
Shaped like sausages, bread rolls and pretzel sticks, Wurm’s oversized marble sculptures dominate the space. They are a continuation of his signature works and remain true to his subject matter and language of forms, despite being made of stone. Wurm gives them a polished finish, playing impressively with his chosen material. He uses various colours of stone, including white Carrara and Paonazzo, grey Marquina and pink Breccia marble, whose often diverse veined patterns break with the “beautiful” aesthetic of the surfaces, the artist explains.
The irony of replicating the humble fare of a traditional Austrian sausage stand in polished marble creates an epicurean symbol that skilfully entices the observer to look behind the scenes of our society. “A sausage with a bread roll is the simplest meal you can get. It was my go-to food when I was a kid – but also later, as a student. To me, it’s a symbol of our social environment and attitudes,” says Erwin Wurm. “But it also stands for a certain type of white male, the kind who discuss their worldviews over a sausage at the stand, usually narrow-minded worldviews that are rife with prejudice and intolerance, not to mention anti-feminist attitudes.”
The sculptures evoke a range of associations, from the unwavering adherence to traditional values to eco-criticism, and cheap meat to factory farming. The title of the series – ICONS – shows clearly what this is about: idolising the wrong things and seeking a (false) sense of social and physical security by indulging in them for a little ‘extra padding’, says Wurm. As with his “Fat Sculptures”, the artist explores the extent to which the Western world uses excessive consumption – whether of food or goods – to compensate for existential insecurity. Wurm’s ICONS and their cultural significance become a metaphor for inner and social conflicts.
A further twist is added by the titles – DIGNITY, or HONOR – which further underpin the special contiguity of the ICONS series by combining form, material and language. Material precision and the reduction and clarity of forms in these works make the idea behind them almost palpable and amplify their message.
These sculptures create a clear-cut succinct, ironic montage. “Humour is a weapon,” says Wurm – although he sees himself not as a humourist but more as someone who uses their wit to offer an alternative perspective on everyday life. In a way, his works reveal to us the insignificance of our existence: “No matter how you approach it, through philosophy or diet, in the end you can never win,” says Wurm.
For all his contextualisation of content, Erwin Wurm also proves to be a stringent sculptor throughout. He understands not only how to exploit the medium of sculpture to express his message but also how to sound out the possibilities of his material: standing erect on their plinths, with just a small footprint, the heavy, stone sausages and baked goods meaningfully maintain a solid balance.
© Text Silvie Aigner
© Images Simon Veres