Then there’s “This Has No Name,” a museum survey opening at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles on September 30th; and another concurrent solo show in L.A., at Richard Telles Fine Art, on view from September 22nd through November 3rd. Meanwhile, Kitchen Trees, the largest work Wurtz has ever made—a series of five “trees” composed of kitchen equipment and plastic fruits and vegetables, commissioned by Public Art Fund—is installed in Manhattan’s City Hall Park until December. That piece presented a unique opportunity for Wurtz to transpose his tinkerer-at-the-table aesthetic into epic dimensions, partnering with a foundry in Brooklyn to construct the roughly 17-foot-tall structures.
Mild and modest as he can be, Wurtz cherishes the wave of recognition. While he’s had faith in these ordinary things for a long time, everyone else may just be catching up. “I find it fascinating to think that they were invented by human beings,” he said, talking about the found objects he employs, though he might as well have been discussing his own finished sculptures. “How humans evolved in the world and came up with these ideas—that’s so much a part of them. That human inventiveness.”
I asked him what he thinks of the word “whimsical,” a loaded adjective that—along with “simple,” or “playful”—seems basically unavoidable when discussing his work. Does that make his sculpture appear light, trifling, insubstantial? “I like that it’s on that edge of, ‘Oh, let’s dismiss this work because it’s too whimsical,’” he explained. “Humor is a powerful thing. Play is a powerful thing. As an artist, when I’m sitting on the floor in the studio, I feel like I’m three years old again, playing. Human life—without humor or play or whimsy—would be intolerable.”