This was my first visit to The Hepworth and I was blown away by a) the David Chipperfield building and b) the setting by the River Calder. Here’s a view from one to the other.
We were here for the biggest every show at the gallery and the UK’s first major survey of work by Franz West. The Austrian artist walks a thin line between the abject and the appealing.
Curators and directors took the brave move to show West alongside the presiding genius of this part of the world. His raw plaster heads might be said to belch and heckle the nearby Hepworths.
This was my favourite piece in the show. It’s just a chair, you might point out, and not a very solid one. But I love the spirit of making do and improvisation. It’s a chair built from hearsay.
This below also tickled me. For reasons best known to the artist, the bottle is wearing a silver mac. Jokes, of the sort which fellow Viennese Freud might have chewed over, abound in this show.
This wall mounted installation was called Personale (1995/7), a cluster of works by other artists. That is, I believe, French Shower by Jason Rhoade, but navigation was an issue.
Beyond the television set you see a handful of West’s much acclaimed ‘adaptives’. Visitors are encouraged to pick these up and explore their weight and dimensions. Radical, huh?
This was just one ingenious element in a much bigger installation with a title translating as pork chops. Like I say, West really does go in for Mitteleuropean drôlerie.
And below you can see Parrhesia (2010) a group of talking heads enjoying some ancient Greek democracy. But “I am a sculptor, not a hewer of ideas,” said West.
So despite his extensive self-directed reading, Wittgenstein and, yes, Freud were not chief materials for this iconoclastic sculptor. Plaster and scrap, on the other hand, were.
In other words he only changed the face of modern sculpture by rolling up his sleeves. As a hopeful hewer of words, the more I think about this show, the better it gets.
Franz West: Where is my Eight? can be seen at The Hepworth Wakefield until 14 September 2014. Read my review on The Arts Desk.