Hans Arp Franz West Myth, Body Interaction: Hauser & Wirth London

Hauser & Wirth on Savile Row’s current show, Chance – Form – Language (and a FRANZWESTigation), curated by Julian Heynen exhibits the works of both Hans Arp and Franz West. Arp was co-founder of the Dada movement in Switzerland and a significant figure in classical Modernism. The Hauser & Wirth show centers around the later work of Hans Arp, 1947-1965, exhibiting his sculptures and poetry together. Five abstract sculptures and one piece of furniture by the Austrian artist, Franz West, who died in 2012, are displayed alongside Arp’s work.

There is a lot to observe in Heynen’s ambitious show, but Arp’s sculptures stand out among his poetry and West’s work. Arp has taken familiar objects or characters and distilled them down to their essential form. Many of Arp’s pieces reflect both the Ancient Greek tradition of bronze sculpture and classical mythology. Arp’s sculpture Daphne recalls the mythic nymph that Apollo fell in love with. Arp has elongated Daphne’s neck and torso, but does not include her appendages or head. Daphne is the antithesis of a proportionate Ancient Greek statue, but the piece retains the same beauty and grace despite its lacking anatomy.

Another sculpture included in the show, Plant Torso, has a similar appearance as Daphne. The piece also radiates tall elegance, and budding branches emerge at similar spots as the stumps that Arp used to indicate the locations of Daphne’s head and limbs, liking her to an amputated war victim. Plant Torso has a curvature that strongly resembles a woman’s body.  The sculpture has a distinct waist, expanding into round hips and then trims down and tapers off into ankles. The myth of Daphne and Apollo ends with Daphne’s father transforming her into a tree, and perhaps Arp’s Plant Torso is meant to represent Daphne after her transformation.

The seminal Arp piece, ‘Ptolemy II,’ which recalls the ancient king of Ptolemaic Egypt in name only, explores the union of opposites. Arp creates an oval shape, blurring the lines between space included and excluded from the sculpture.

Hans Arp was both a talented artist and poet. The Hauser & Wirth show has not only inscribed his poems in both German and English on the wall, but also plays an audio reading of them. West’s Passstücke invites human interaction, and the viewer’s appreciation of West’s work derive largely from a spontaneous moment with the sculpture, thus there exists a large element of chance. Hans Arp’s poetry opens up similar possibilities, since each viewer will have a unique perspective of Arp’s art depending on the chance interaction of hearing his poetry and viewing his sculptures.

Words:  Katherine Morais  © Artlyst 2014 Photo:Photo: Alex Delfanne courtesy Hauser & Wirth London

This is the final week to see Hauser & Wirth’s Arp/West show which runs until March 1st.


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