|Franz West was actively engaged with the preparation of this exhibition up until his untimely death earlier this summer.
Belonging to the generation of artists exposed to Actionist and Performance Art of the 1960s and 70s, West instinctively rejected the traditionally passive nature of the relationship between artwork and viewer.
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.
In a forest of standing sculptures the size of small people, West's persistent irreverence with the principles of classical sculpture is evident. Lumpen totems, built from papier-mâché, polystyrene, and the odd cardboard box, are splashed, smeared, brushed, and dribbled every which way with bright clashes of paint.
In contrast with these sculptures, four immense fiberglass assemblages for indoor or outdoor placement suggest the patchworked manufacture of old Lockheed aircraft. But their sugar-almond tones and goofy, cartoonish shapes, which coil skyward or snake along the ground—such as the jokey three-dimensional extrusion of Ludwig Wittgenstein's signature—parody both the streamlined forms of industrialized objects and the bombastic nature of much public sculpture.
Completing the mis-en-scène of this exhibition are West’s distinctive collages, which combine sketchily overpainted advertisements and magazine pages manipulated to absurdist effect, one of which provided the charming and evocative title for the exhibition—of a man immortalized at play.