Franz West born in Vienna studied at the Academy of Applied Arts. West’s work has been a fixture in countless international survey exhibitions over the world, and it is included in major public collections.
West instinctively rejected the traditionally passive nature of the relationship between artwork and viewer. He made work that was vigorous and imposing yet free and light-hearted, where form and function were roughly compatible rather than mutually exclusive. In the seventies, he produced the first of the small, portable, mixed media sculptures called “Adaptives” (“Passstücke”). These “ergonomically inclined” objects become complete as artworks only when the viewer holds, wears, carries or performs with them. Transposing the knowledge gained with these formative works, he explored sculpture increasingly in terms of an ongoing dialogue of actions and reactions between viewers and objects in any given exhibition space, while probing the internal aesthetic relations between sculpture and painting.
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Some of his sculptures resemble heads, held up on rods, balanced on insubstantial, make-do wooden plinths. The rough, mis-shapen lumps have all sorts of interesting and happenstance contours.
West was terrific at the lump. Moving around them, their bulges and curves and silhouetted profiles are alive and always unexpected. You keep seeing an ear, a cheek, a nose, a chin, a brow. As soon as you grasp a physiognomy, it has gone. At one moment a head might look feminine, the next ogre-like and masculine. Then its an ice-cream cone, a knobbly rock, or something sheered off in some iconoclastic act of vandalism. That’s what makes West works amazing.
West was awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011.
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