Midcareer, B. Wurtz has suddenly become a darling of the art world. His striking arrangements of common household detritus seem to resonate with our current great awakening in the face of global warming and rampant consumerism—they suggest the pleasures of consumption but do not overlook its (literal) baggage. Wurtz has likened his activity to recycling, an extension of his longstanding commitment to sustainable living.
As a young artist in the 1970s, Wurtz established “sleeping, eating, and keeping warm” as basic human needs around which his work would center; the objects he selects are connected to these functions.1 (He further encapsulated this idea into a logo that frequently appears in his work.) One of the objects he employs most frequently is the common plastic bag, which found its way into a number of the compositions created during a prolific two-year residency at Dieu Donné. (All works are untitled, accompanied by a nonchronological inventory number.) The nearly seven-foot-tall construction Untitled (7914) is crowned with an inverted grocery-store bag beneath which cast-paper produce dangles from a fountain of wires that spring up from the salvaged-lumber plinth. In a two-dimensional collage, Untitled (7831), Wurtz sandwiched the New York Times front-page story on 2013’s “Snowmageddon” with one of the blue plastic bags in which the paper is delivered to subscribers. In another group, cast paper dangles from a wire hanger in a shape that suggests both plastic bag and sleeveless shirt. The garment-cum-tote, emblazoned with the artist’s shelter/clothing/food logo, plays on the idea of a Wurtz-branded apparel line.
Food is also a common theme: in addition to the cast-fruit fountain in Untitled (7914), Wurtz offers a plate of cast-pulp produce atop a diminutive wooden table in Untitled (7850) and a collage built from the foil tops of yogurt containers. Shelter finds its way into the mix with paper reliefs of light switches and electrical outlets.
The mood generated by Wurtz’s “chorus of artworks” is described by essayist Jan Avgikos in terms of buoyancy, animation and “goofy energy.” Commenting on the edition Untitled (2013)—a sprightly arrangement of colorful mesh bags that spring in three tufts from a rectangle of wood veneer—Avgikos observes, “they look as if they are ready for the party to begin.”2
- Bruce Hainley, “Only Connect: The Art of B. Wurtz,” Artforum 44, no. 2 (October 2005): 243–47.
- “Cannibal Designs: An Exercise in How to Make the World One’s Own,” B. Wurtz: Works in Handmade Paper/Dieu Donné Lab Grant Program, Publication Series No. 16 (New York: Dieu Donné, 2015): 5–6.