It’s not about the rhino. That’s my conclusion after spending 30 minutes with Urs Fischer’s unbelievable full-size replica of a rhinoceros-turned-porcupine currently occupying a glass-encased corner of Midtown Manhattan.
The artwork is a 10-foot milled aluminum sculpture by Swiss-born artist Urs Fischer, eight years in the making. The rhinoceros itself is based on a 3D-scan of a real taxidermied animal, to which the artist has added 20+ random objects that morph and flail from it. Though the choice of objects is unexplained, they each seem to “show off” his perfectionism in using aluminum to mimic every possible material: the leather of a handbag, the porcelain of a toilet, patterned fabric, and my favorites: a potato-chip bag and a cardboard pizza box… all aluminum… all unbelievable.
Urs Fischer is known for his odd take on sculpture and audience. His past work has included full-size clay sculptures that viewers can reform, humorous sculptures hidden in a secret gutted bank, and expensive wax sculptures that are eventually destroyed by their functionality as candles.
This latest work, titled “Things”, is presented by Gagosian Gallery though occupies an unusual location – a previous bank lobby located between Grand Central Station and Bryant Park. The work can be entered Monday-Saturday from 10am-6pm, but is on view 24/7 from the sidewalk through June 23rd.
Again… ALL OF IT is machine-carved aluminum.
As to what it all means: It is my theory (completely unconfirmed by artist and gallery) that the windows are more important than the rhino. Every element of the metal sculpture: the magnetic level of detail, the chrome-like finish, the curious choice of objects AND the geographic location of the space itself – are all meant to function as a fishing lure. Simply put: This is a glass cage with a tempting invitation. From the sidewalk, it forces you to stop, to peer inside with a sense of inaccessible longing. But those who enter will not just enjoy a visual treat that exceeds expectations, but they will BECOME a part of the thing being viewed. This is “art viewing” on display. Commuters can watch people looking at art while people looking at art can watch people watching. And if you want to get crazy: back up across the street to view people viewing people viewing art. As the artist stated in an interview with the New York Times “I just saw a rhino and was like, ‘That’s my protagonist that I’ve looked for for years.’”
WHAT: Urs Fischer: Things
WHERE: 511 Fifth Avenue (entrance at 2 east 43rd Street), New York, NY
Presented by Gagosian Gallery
WHEN: May 15 – June 23, 2018. Mon-Sat 10-6 (viewable from sidewalk 24/7)