The first word that came to mind entering Bill Wurtz’s fall exhibition “Domestic Space” was scale. The entry gallery was strikingly empty, a quality exaggerated by the contrasting size of the small household objects (such as a metal lampshade, colander and cheese grater) set atop wooden platforms roughly a foot high, arranged on the floor a few feet out from the walls. As backdrops to these objects, Wurtz has staged—“staged” being an especially apt term for these theatrical pairings—close-up black-and-white photographs of the objects, printed as dye sublimation prints. The grayscale prints are large—at least 28 x 40 inches each—and depict such obscure corners, angles and aspects of their subjects as to make them nearly unrecognizable, appearing instead as dramatic landscapes of distant mountain ranges or industrial scenes. This Photo/Object series, begun in 1987, is representative of Wurtz’s larger body of work, which places discarded and recycled objects like plastic bags, rags and clothes into elaborate call-and-response sculptures and installations.
Wurtz is known for “whimsical” conceptual works that oscillate between Duchampian readymades and collage sculptures.Untitled (British Design) (1987) looks like a towering apartment complex, the holes of the cheese grater like windows in the building, and Untitled (Beige Lampshade) (1987) could be a flying saucer. These combinations play on our perceptions of commonplace items, usually tied to their functionality and rarely focused solely on their colors, textures and shapes. Even in the case of a lampshade—an object type with a rich aesthetic history—Wurtz’s cropped image works against its expected properties to emphasize other visual registers. He hones in on these aspects, highlighting materiality: shiny metal objects are dye-sublimation-printed on aluminum, maintaining an aspect of the original object’s sparkling surface.