What's on Los Angeles | Index

by Jody Zellen

March 9, 2023

Peter Fischli
Rena Spaulings Fine Art
February 17 - April 1, 2023

Peter Fischli

Peter Fischli is best known for his collaborative works with David Weiss. They began collaborating in 1979 and although they created numerous projects and exhibited regularly as Fischli/Weiss, they are best known for their Rube Goldberg-est film The Way Things Go from 1987. While the duo worked together until Weiss' death in 2012, Fischli now makes works that stem from their collaborations and exhibits on his own. For his exhibition, Ungestalten, Fischli presents nine new sculptures and a series of photo-collages.

Hung as diptychs, the mostly black and white photo-collages were shot in Zurich over the last three years and while they are based on images of vandalism, Fischli has transformed them into humorous urban interventions. The images collage different shaving cream blobs made by teenagers on poles or on the ground throughout the city — a form of temporary graffiti as the shaving cream dissolves overnight — with out-of-focus negative images also taken in Zurich's urban areas. Fischli's creations celebrate the foamy shapes, turning them into mountains and other three-dimensional elements. While the photographs occupy the perimeter walls of the gallery, the sculptures are presented in the center of the open space.

They appear to be ad-hoc traffic lights that resemble minimalist sculptures as well as gallows composed of vertical and horizontal beams with dangling light boxes that flicker on and off at indeterminate intervals. These free-standing structures are haunting and dysfunctional as traffic signals. The boxes contain circular lights and are hung at different heights like fruit on a tree and display either white, red or yellow illuminations that cycle on and off at different rates. Some of the devices work, while others are unplugged or in different stages of disrepair— with missing fixtures and rogue cords and wires. Fischli has fabricated these works out of wood, glass and cardboard and has allowed patches of different tones of gray paint to accumulate on their surfaces to suggest repetitive repairs. They have a ghost-like appearance and though modern in their design, they feel like they were constructed for a stage set or rescued from a defunct city model. Though some are functional, their purpose is ambiguous and their signaling unclear. Walk or wait? Stay or go? The atmosphere they collectively create is at once daunting and comical.

Seen together, the sculptures and photographs allude to a decaying city, once a place of beauty but now undergoing a slow and irreversible demise. One further work is situated outside the gallery and embedded under a steel grate covering a hole in the sidewalk near the front door. As one enters the space, a careful listener will notice music emanating from below, another example of Fischli's intervention into the fabric of urban life. While much of Fischli's work is conceptually driven, he is also a formalist whose works nod to Minimalism, while simultaneously exploring the fragile nature and vulnerability of city spaces.