Erwin Wurm’s work is a hoot. A banana protruding from a male mouth with two more functioning as substitute breasts, a floppy eared rabbit sticking out of a fly (the artist is the protagonist in both of these), another man struggling to use his forehead to maintain the balance of a small tower of three oranges: The indignities are multiple. We smile but we also feel their pain.
There are numerous sculptures in this show and they are more problematic. His Stones consist of various dinky pairs of legs, all surmounted and weighed down by a heavy slab of mossy stone. The message is laboured. Other sculptures are more interesting: a series of abstract ceramics, painted in ice cream colours, from which poke out the odd finger or part of an arm. His Fat Mini is one of a series of little cars which look as if they are in dire need of calorie control. It bulges profusely all over the place possibly alluding to the bloat of society. Whatever it has charm unlike the rest of the work in this exhibition.
He started doing his One Minute Sculptures in the late 1980s. The new ones feel different though, they have a new sense of fusty monumentality, which is the result of him using a ‘gigantic’ new camera. I don’t think this works. We are invited to participate and make our own sculpture but I for one felt less enthusiasm than I had in the past.
The earlier ones were fresher and seemed beautifully spontaneous. These works are more ponderous and rather sinister. One is not so aware of the sculptural issues, the tension and weight and balance of what is going on. Of course they are still about both the fortitude and futility of human endeavour. This is his contribution to the language of sculpture and it deserves a round of applause. But the quality of dazzling dexterity has vanished.
Erwin Wurm ‘New Work’ is at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, 37 Dover Street, London W1S 4NJ until 23 March.