The every day is made human in the humourous and experimental works of Austrian artist Erwin Wurm, who brings 100 sculptures, paintings, drawings, videos and photographs from the last 30 years to Yorkshire Sculpture Park this summer.
Wurm is best known internationally for his 2017 Austrian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, where he upended a truck to turn it into a viewing platform for the Mediterranean Sea and turned a 1980s caravan into an interactive sculpture, cutting holes in its side for legs to go through and welding a table to its side as a gravity-defying headrest.
‘Erwin Wurm’s sculpture will be a riot of expression and colour against the green Yorkshire landscape and in the galleries,’ says YSP’s director Clare Lilley. ‘His imaginative powers are limitless, and we hope that visitors will be inspired, energised, confounded, and amused by sculptures that portray familiar objects but in a way that is entirely unexpected. ‘
This disruption of the everyday and desire to reframe the familiar connect the pieces on show in Yorkshire. Inspired by 17th-century French philosopher René Descartes, Trap of the Truth interrogates the subjectivity of truth and the phrase: ‘I think, therefore I am’.
Outside, 19 large sculptures embed YSP’s verdant grounds, some previously unseen. Among them is a five-metre-tall, pastel blue Hermes Birkin Bag with legs called Big Step (2021) – a symbol of consumer culture – and Big Kastenmann (2012), aka Big Box Man, his first large-scale public art project in New York. Bronze busts, food items and anthropomorphised objects also feature, including a giant Weiner sausage in honour of the Austrian capital, Vienna. Ludicrous, at sometimes absurd, but always endearing, the artworks ask us to engage our sense of playfulness while questioning social conventions.
Inside YSP’s Underground Gallery, 50 more sculptures and some 60 two-dimensional artworks (illustrations, photographs and paintings) are on show, expanding the understanding of his practice. His seminal Renault 25 (1991) – a full-size adapted Renault car which has been warped, as though cornering at speed – is also on show and offers a reference point for the evolution and expansion of his practice over the last 30 years.
Most architecturally, his 2022 ConcreteSculptures take architectural fragments (iron, wood, stone, brick) rescued from demolished structures and use them to make new forms of houses and bricks.
Erwin Wurm is on show at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park from 10 June 2023 until 28 April 2024.