April 8, 2013

B. Wurtz: A Modest Formalism

Some plastic net bags, pieces of ribbon, plastic straws, shoelaces: common things used to poetic effect by B. Wurtz in his current show at Metro Pictures. Each humble object is treated with a kind of reverence, and is placed carefully within a structure. There is a humorous kind of rigor here: of formalism tweaked; each element remains very much its ordinary self, yet lends its color and shape to a focused composition.

For me there's also a heart aching poignancy: the found objects seem so provisional, as if they might blow away with the rest of the detritus around us. The delicate meeting of net and line and wire is attentive and touching. But the curious thing about this body of work is that it is also full of joy and delightful surprise...

...and whimsy. Tiny sculptures grouped on shelves, bright ribbons as colorful exclamations, buttons adding geometry and weight, all on "serious" marble bases, telling us that yes indeed, this is Art.

Almost like mini-mobiles gone haywire, this group of works have wire lines expressively wiggling through space, all topped by a plastic straw, capping the line with color. Two arms balance buttons, like a milkmaid with her buckets. Seeing a group of these together gives an illusion of buoyant movement. 

These four paintings seem the most formal in the show: a central, loosely painted circle, surrounded by a circular line, 

...but then, marking each center, a button, rich with metaphor, with memory, and with fun. 

A series of drawings have snaky lines, painted and actual, made by shoe laces.

On the drawings they are tied at top and bottom, adding another physical layer to their linear presence. Two laces are tied at the bottom of each drawing, hanging gently down, gravity's line, as opposed to the meandering lines above. Oh, how I love those small knots, evidence of touch and care, and wit; they are "the end". In a fascinating discussion with the sculptor John Newman, which you can read here at Bomb Magazine, B. Wurtz writes, in reference to Alexander Calder, but which certainly applies to his own work:
Joy is a huge part, almost the most serious part, of art. Think of life without joy––what's the point? 


  1. Altoon -- What a playful and poetic study of line and balance and space.
    I totally enjoyed this tour. Thank you.

  2. What joy to learn of a new artist for me! And such a great example of how it is not the material, but how we bring it alive.

    1. Julie, I'm so glad to introduce you. Yes, bringing something to life is the key.

  3. This taps into the Richard Tuttle space where the playful and the poetic are so effortlessly expressed. Thanks so much for the introduction to his work. Would have liked to have seen this show in person but just ran out of time when I was in NYC.

    1. You're welcome, Deborah. I'd known of his work for a couple of years, but had not seen it before; I'm glad I got to the show.

  4. thank you for these photos, I wish I'd seen this show myself.