'trap of the truth': erwin wurm's mind-bending exhibition opens at yorkshire sculpture park

'trap of the truth': erwin wurm's mind-bending exhibition opens at yorkshire sculpture park

a walk through the absurd at the trap of the truth show 

 

Erwin Wurm’s much-anticipated Trap of the Truth exhibition opened to the public on Saturday, June 10, 2023, at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park(YSP) in the UK. More than 100 works are currently on display, including 55 sculptures indoors, 19 sculptures spread outdoors, paintings, photographs, videos, and drawings created over 30 years of the artist’s career, with several works shown for the first time (see designboom’s introductory coverage here). As reflected in this show, Erwin Wurm consistently challenges the rules of sculpture, the limitations of the human body, and its relationship to inhabited spaces. His work disrupts familiar and sensible perceptions, and in a process filled with humor and experimentation, he frequently reimagines commonplace objects by giving them human traits. 

'trap of the truth': erwin wurm's mind-bending exhibition opens at yorkshire sculpture park
Trap of the Truth installation view | image © Jonty Wilde – @jontywilde, courtesy YSP

 

 

Ultimately, Wurm’s work examines the true meaning and essence of a sculpture, stretching its boundaries while calling into question the value and importance we place on everyday objects. Both playful and political, he uses ludicrous scenarios to address how we conform to society’s demands and how sculpture can upend cultural beliefs. Beyond those humorous layers, Wurm also looked to 17th-century philosopher René Descartes’ interrogations that led to his famous declaration: ‘I Think Therefore I am‘ — inspiring him to come up with the exhibition title: Trap of the Truth. 

'trap of the truth': erwin wurm's mind-bending exhibition opens at yorkshire sculpture park
19 sculptures take over the YSP heritage landscape | image © Jonty Wilde, courtesy YSP

 

 

erwin wurm’s surreal WORLD enlivenS YORKSHIRE SCULPTURE PARK

 

Outdoors, 19 sculptures occupy the Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s heritage landscape, including new and never-before-seen works. Three sculptures from Wurm’s Bags series explore consumer culture and objects of status. They include the five-meter-tall, pastel blue Big Step (2021), which takes the form of the Hermès Birkin bag, a contemporary symbol of prestige and wealth, and is personified with long elegant legs appearing to be walking purposefully. Dance (2021) and Trip (2021) – a briefcase and suitcase, respectively – complete the series, with their long, dynamic legs giving a sense of human life within the landscape.

'trap of the truth': erwin wurm's mind-bending exhibition opens at yorkshire sculpture park
image © Jonty Wilde, courtesy YSP

 

 

Big Kastenmann (2012), which translates as ‘big box man,’ stands at five meters tall, with a large box for a torso wearing a formal pink and grey suit jacket. This was Wurm’s first large-scale public art project, displayed outside The Standard Hotel in New York City in 2012. His 3.2-meter-tall bronze Balzac (2023) will be shown for the first time – the majestic human form created by elaborate layers of robes reminiscent of ancient classical statuary and referencing Rodin’s sculpture of the same name.

 

Drawing on his nation’s historical and cultural identity, Wurm interprets popular Austrian food items, the most iconic of which is the gherkin, or pickled cucumber, with which he has a longstanding fascination. It is presented here with the four-meter-high bronze Der Gurk (2016), while three of Wurm’s Giants from the Abstract Sculptures series (2014-18), are anthropomorphized bronze sausages that reference the wiener hot dog, which takes its name from Austria’s capital, Vienna. Both foodstuffs lend themselves to being monumentalized as sculpture and propose contemporary readings of totems, idols, obelisks, and other ancient sculptural forms.

'trap of the truth': erwin wurm's mind-bending exhibition opens at yorkshire sculpture park
Dance (2021) and Trip (2021) | image © Jonty Wilde, courtesy YSP

'trap of the truth': erwin wurm's mind-bending exhibition opens at yorkshire sculpture park
Der Gurk (2016) © Archiv Stiftung Blickachsen GmbH. Germany, courtesy YSP

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Abstract Sculptures series (2014-18) | image © Jonty Wilde, courtesy YSP

'trap of the truth': erwin wurm's mind-bending exhibition opens at yorkshire sculpture park
image via Studio Erwan Wurm

 

 

trap of the truth extends to the underground ysp gallery 

 

In the Underground Gallery, a selection of over 50 sculptures unravels the complexities of Wurm’s practice alongside 60 two-dimensional works illustrating the artist’s prolific drawing practice in pen, crayon, and watercolor. The earliest gallery work is Renault 25 from 1991. It is a full-size adapted Renault 25 car that has been reformed on a tilt, as though distorted by cornering at speed. This reference to animation, comic-book illustration, and popular culture sets the scene for Wurm’s inclination to the absurd and desire to undermine conformity.

 

In Gallery One, works from Wurm’s Attacks and Concrete Sculptures series reference philosophers, psychologists, and thinkers from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century, including Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Such intellectuals are frequently memorialized by their houses or cabins, and Wurm continues this notion of lionizing spaces for solitude by representing his workspace with the aluminum Eiswerk – My Studio (The Kitchen and Bedroom Hanging Down) (2005), an irrational and self-deprecating representation of his home and studio in Limberg, Austria.

'trap of the truth': erwin wurm's mind-bending exhibition opens at yorkshire sculpture park
Big Step (2022) © Studio Erwin Wurm | image courtesy YSP

 

 

The ConcreteSculptures from 2022 take what appear to be fragments of demolished structures, including iron wire, wood, and stone, and merge them with cast-concrete forms of houses and cars. The 2022 Attacks are bronze and aluminum buildings and vehicles that oversized sausages and bananas have squashed in a humorous yet discomforting manner. A 5.6-meter-long Mercedes truck shows the vast variation in scale with which Wurm works, and the bright red bending Truck II (2011) appears to have reversed up the gallery wall where it rests precariously.

'trap of the truth': erwin wurm's mind-bending exhibition opens at yorkshire sculpture park
Cabin Thoreau Concrete II (2022) | image by Ulrich Ghezzi © Studio Erwin Wurm, courtesy YSP

 

 

Wurm came to prominence in the 1990s with his One Minute sculptures – an ongoing series of works where the artist gives written or drawn instructions for participants to pose with ordinary objects such as buckets, fruit, or chairs for a limited time. He documents these fleeting interactions, where the viewer becomes the artwork, with photographs and video, a selection of which will be displayed alongside several objects. Extending the idea of the viewer as an artist, art object, and a participant, Ship of Fools (2017) is an adapted caravan with which visitors can interact by putting their heads, hands, bottoms, or feet through apertures, encouraging disruption and disorder in the normally hallowed museum setting.

 

Carved from marble, the Icons sculptures immortalize bread, sausages, and a coffee bean – giving them the status of classical statuary by putting them on a pedestal. Alongside are seven ceramic sculptures from the Dissolution series, which Wurm made in 2018 to return to the physical and direct act of making. Including works titled Double Ear Head, Noser, and Mud Kiss, they incorporate body parts associated with human senses continuing Wurm’s consideration of the body and how we experience the world around us.

 

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Crash Long (2022) | image by Ulrich Ghezzi © Studio Erwin Wurm, courtesy YSP

 

Completing the exhibition are six Flat Sculptures – oil on canvas works that the artist started painting in 2020. Primarily working with sculpture, Wurm translates notions of form and volume to the brightly painted canvases, which have stretched and distorted letters spelling out their respective titles into almost unrecognizable shapes. A lively program of engagement activity will also accompany Trap of the Truth — centered around play, exploration of materials, and experimentation of making processes — as well as an illustrated guide and catalog featuring in-situ photography.

'trap of the truth': erwin wurm's mind-bending exhibition opens at yorkshire sculpture park
image © Jonty Wilde, courtesy YSP

'trap of the truth': erwin wurm's mind-bending exhibition opens at yorkshire sculpture park
Ship of Fool (2017) | image © Eva Würdinger – @eva_wuerdinger,  courtesy YSP

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image © Jonty Wilde, courtesy YSP

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