Richard Telles Fine Art / Los Angeles
Even more than, say, Richard Tuttle, to whom he might (uneasily) be compared—B. Wurtz tests a viewer’s relationship to objects and construction of their meaning, significance, even utility. This encompasses relations among objects, and by extension, our relationship with the world.
The sculptures in this show (all Untitled, 2014), no different from most of his others, are quintessential ‘mysterious’ or enigmatic objects—a mix of constructions of crafted or hand-finished basic and art materials, found objects, and standard manufactured hardware. (I will never look at an eye-hook in quite the same way.) These objects are refashioned or manipulated—all very precisely configured and utterly transformed in their new arrangements.
In using the most mundane, ordinary materials, including what amount to discards and detritus (plastic bags, plastic containers, lids and similar packaging), as well as buttons, fixings and fastenings, Wurtz reveals a kind of physical and symbolic grammar of objects and materials that is as simple or complex, reductive or expansive, as the materials and their configuration entail. In its funky formalism, a de facto, non-doctrinaire quality, it offers a kind of rebuke to Minimalism.
The “off-hand” has never looked more precise.
Consider a bust-height configuration of four undulating wires, each suspending a white or (primary) colored button surrounding a single vertical wire, which extends six inches above and is surmounted by a veil of a folded red-white plaid napkin, all embedded on a short wooden dowel itself standing on a small square plywood base. (A jockey and chariot? Italian restaurant kitchen goddess?)
To view these sculptures in conjunction with Wurtz’s works on paper is to test our relationships with objects in representations—maps, pictures, diagrams. Wurtz subtly tests the alteration and transformation of these relationships in such works and hanging pieces that usually lay more or less flat against the wall. Not far from the untitled red-checked napkin ‘figure,’ Wurtz showed a suite of grommet ‘constellations’ triangulated by three painted ‘buttons’ (actually large painted dots circling grommets). The buttons’ primary colors are offset by a single secondary (frequently green) in an inverted chevron configuration. A single primary plastic cap ‘button’ is suspended by a thread from the triangle’s apex and extends just below the paper’s edge.
Although there were more paper or hanging pieces than free-standing sculptures in this show, the sculptures largely determined the conversation among the objects, if for no other reason than the fact they impinged on the viewer’s physical space. This was magnified by the addition of random appropriated design elements—e.g., in one piece, the red-and-black checkerboard pattern of a plastic bag rising above two more standard pale-green grocery store plastic bags. There is some emphasis here to respective positioning, shapes and volumes (inflation and deflation), of larger and smaller bags. The darks and lights of the cruciform-stepped wood base make their own discrete statement. In a blog post, I called this piece a ‘red-and-black mass’; and what we might call a ‘Westermann’ aspect is evident in both the sculptures and some of the hangings. But the purity and precision of Wurtz’s abstractions are entirely his own.