Wade Guyton, Peter Fischli and David Weiss’s massive new show is overflowing at the Aspen Art Museum
If You Go …
What: Wade Guyton, Peter Fischli, David Weiss
Where: Aspen Art Museum
When: Through Nov. 26
How much: Free
More info: http://www.aspenartmuseum.org
Thank goodness that the Aspen Art Museum’s new show will be up for five full months. It’s going to take a while to find and see everything in it.
This massive, pervasive, collaborative exhibition of works by Wade Guyton, Peter Fischli and David Weiss fills all five galleries in the museum, spills out onto the “commons” on Spring Street and onto the rooftop. It’s taken over the hallways and a basement lobby area.
“We didn’t have enough space; we co-opted spaces outside the gallery,” Guyton said during a walkthrough of the show on Wednesday. “We were occupying the whole building and pushing beyond the walls and outside and into unused spaces.”
The artists — Guyton collaborating with Fischli, following the death of his longtime creative partner Weiss — have even sculpted new holding boxes for exhibition catalogs and taken over the catalogs themselves (the extra-large format glossy, designed by Guyton and Fischli, folds out into a poster of their works that you can take home as a free souvenir; the other side provides a guide to this intricate adventure of a show). Fischli said he liked the idea of visitors fumbling with the cumbersome brochures as they wander the show.
“Everybody that takes it or is walking around, even when it’s folded, becomes part of a performance,” the Swiss contemporary art legend said with a laugh. “It was something that amused us a lot.”
To complicate matters, these trickster artists have created sculptures of walls and placed them throughout the museum, which form new nooks and crannies that are filled with yet more art.
“We realized that if they look like normal museum walls it’s much more interesting or also irritating or also questionable,” Fischli explained mischievously. “To do something that is highly questionable has always been part of my thinking about artworks.”
The new white walls split apart galleries and public spaces in strange new ways. On the second floor, for example, while walking along Fischli/Weiss’ “Visible World,” a slim, glowing light table showcasing 3,000 scenic photographs, you may hear the sounds of a Drake or Adele song coming from behind a wall. That would be “Radio,” a new collaborative audio work played on a small transistor radio that the artists made after a road trip from Aspen to Los Angeles.
Walk into the street level gallery and you may think you’ve made a wrong turn into an industrial back room of the museum — pedestals here appear to be piled with leftover paint mixing cans, tape, cigarette butts and artist tools. But that’s the point. Fischli/Weiss sculpted these utensils and ordinary objects from polyurethane and hand-painted them to look like tossed-off studio detritus. Guyton keeps messing with you in an adjacent gallery, where he has stacked five 7-foot-tall paintings on top of one another and leaned them against a wall, as if they’re still waiting to be hung.
The show also will change over the months to come. On the open-air rooftop, Guyton has hung an untitled painting of an “X” on a wall sculpture. Exposed to the elements — rain, sun and surely snow by mid-November — it will deteriorate and may be destroyed.
“As we were bringing walls out of the building to the outdoors, it seemed like one of the walls should bring a painting along with it,” Guyton said.
Fischli has also made a new “concrete landscape” for the roof — a messy rectangle of concrete dried in Aspen early this month. Buried inside are unspecified items that he suggested may bloom or change the shape of the piece in the coming months.
Down in the basement, the area normally lined with Shigeru Ban’s cardboard benches has been taken over by a series of long, black paintings by Guyton. In the corner of one basement gallery, a Fischli/Weiss turntable is spinning with a beaker sliding around on top of it and a flashlight illuminating its movements (a steampunk mechanical whimsy reminiscent of the iconic Fischli/Weiss film “The Way Things Go,” which the museum screened recently).
And in the two main basement galleries, Guyton has three paintings of flames leaning against a wall sculpture and Fischli/Weiss have the slide projection piece “Flowers and Mushrooms” on a far wall. Between them, the Fischli/Weiss puppets “Rat and Bear (Sleeping)” lay on the floor, one looking at the fire and the other at the flowers.
The puppets are breathing creepily. Actually, “Rat and Bear” have motors inside them that mimic the act of breathing. When the museum staff unpacked them, the motors were running extra fast and Fischli joked that Rat and Bear were having trouble breathing in the thin Aspen air.
Spend some time with the show and you end up seeing things differently. When everything in your environment is artwork and nothing is as it seems, your mind bends a bit. Step into the bathroom and you wonder if the water you’re washing your hands with is just water or another strange concoction by Guyton, Fischli and Weiss. Order a coffee in the cafe and you suspect you’re part of an immersive performance art piece you didn’t see in the catalog. It’s a powerful experience to have your perspective so jarred by art. It’s weird. But it’s also wonderful. And it’s here through Thanksgiving weekend.
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