Last year, Urs Fischer installed the 46-foot-tall aluminum sculpture Big Clay #4 in front of New York’s Seagram Building, where it towered over Park Avenue for months. In that same space in 2011, Fischer’s 23-foot-tall Untitled (Lamp/bear)—a monumental yellow teddy bear under a lamp—forced passersby to crane their necks as they strolled into the Four Seasons. For his retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, he built a 45-foot-tall aluminum structure that greeted museumgoers in the parking lot. A press release for that show said the work appears to have been “produced by the hands of a giant.”
Which is why it’s surprising that, on Sunday, he’s opening a show at the tiny storefront-size gallery JTT, on the Lower East Side.
“It just happened really naturally,” said the gallery’s owner, Jasmin Tsou, over the phone. “I was dialoguing with Urs, and I invited him to do a project here. Honestly, he’s just excited.”
It’s not the first time that Fischer has graced the Lower East Side with his work. In 2014 Gagosian Gallery opened a pop-up gallery in a former Chase Bank at 104 Delancey Street and showed cast-bronze sculptures in a two-part exhibition that ran parallel to a show at that gallery’s Park & 75 space uptown.
This time, however, Fischer’s breaking away from the Gagosian empire, which is something he does from time to time, as he explained in this week’s WSJ Magazine profile of Larry Gagosian.
“You are not on a sports team,” he told WSJ, by way of explaining his choice to sometimes show with his original dealer, Gavin Brown. He added that while Gagosian does give you a lot of exposure, “for some things you don’t want the exposure. Why should one exclude the other?”
The single piece in the show, which is called Ursula, is based on the Aristide Maillol bronze sculpture La Rivière. Fischer’s version is made of plasticine, a material so soft it can be easily molded by hand—which, it turns out, is what Fischer intends viewers to do.
“The public will be invited to take it apart—it’s super, super soft and very malleable,” Tsou said. “It’s also similar to Play-Doh, so it’s a material that a child might make.”
(Speaking of children, Fischer’s wife, the designer and filmmaker Tara Subkoff, is eight months pregnant, which might account for the interest in having people mold his work like Play-Doh.)
Due to this interactive feature of the work, the makeup of the sculpture will change pretty dramatically as the show goes on.
“It’s in line with Urs’s interest in the transfer of material,” Tsou said. “He’s interested in this being a transformation process.”
The transformation begins May 1.