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West bids to border on the taboo at Whitechapel


Preview: Jack Foley

CAN an object be sociable? When is a sculpture also a painting? Is it possible to express the unconscious as a piece of furniture?

Franz West’s experimental sculpture, furniture and objects fuse Freud with form, sculpture with painting.

Using brightly-coloured aluminium, papier-mâché or collage, West creates images and situations bordering on the taboo.

The Whitechapel is currently bringing together the first major survey of Franz West in Britain, with works from the past 30 years, that are by turns erotic, philosophical and immensely sociable.

Franzwestite: Franz West - works 1973-2003 will run at the until November 9.

Franz West’s forefathers are the Viennese Actionists - 1960s performance artists who used the body to trigger cathartic experiences.

West gives form to attitudes through a series of plaster body parts or off-the-peg performance props, forcing the body into poses which are part hilarious, part agonised.

West also takes everyday objects and carefully bandages them with papier-mâché until they metamorphose into bizarre new forms. These meteorite-like shapes, splattered with intense high gloss colour seem to express pure neurosis.

Franz West is fascinated by images in glossy magazines and the allure of soft-porn and the motor industry.

In a playful critique of consumer culture, he paints over these advertisements to isolate images and highlight their absurdity.

West has also become famous for the furniture-sculpture he has been making since the 1980s, inviting us to lie on his couches to relax, socialise and become transformed into artist’s model, psychiatrist’s patient and work of art.

His offer of participation also extends to other artists - Martin Kippenberger, Michelangelo Pistoletto and Wolfgang Tillmans have all contributed to West’s subversive, sociable and aesthetically challenging vision.

The Whitechapel is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 11am to 6pm, and on Thursday, from 11am to 9pm. It is closed on Mondays.

Admission is free.

Address: Whitechapel Art Gallery,
80-82 Whitechapel High Street,
London, E1 7QX. Tel: 020 7522 7878 (recorded info)/020 7522 7888 (other enquiries).

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