Franz West: White Elephant
Text by Patrick Charpenel, Michel Blancsubé, Veit Loers.
Since the mid-1960s, Franz West (born 1947) has been finding new ways to balance his art on the line between beauty and ugliness. At the age of 14, West--living in bombed-out, post-Nazi Vienna--attended an event organized by the Viennese Actionists, at which Hermann Nitsch smashed a lamb cadaver against the wall of a basement room in a tenement building: "it was incredibly shocking and really depressing," West said. His own art over the past four decades has eschewed such nihilism: his Adaptives, which he has described as "neuroses made material" (with a nod to Darwin as well), are sculptural objects for viewers to engage physically, using them as ungainly temporary prostheses, appliances, accessories, and instructional tools. White Elephant documents these, as well as West's important works of furniture and collage, and his marvelously awkward sculptures, which seem lumpily homely and unbalanced, or gangly and hopeful as a blemished teen.