Though the Bass Museum is well air-conditioned inside, that sense of enveloping heat and the acute awareness of bodies and objects planted in the jelly of a petri dish are very much retained in Wurm's show. One of his works, Mies van der Rohe – melting , which is an acrylic sculpture of a Miesian high rise (roughly 1,1 metre tall) in a static pool of itself, speaks with particular clarity to this weighty sense of measured, stagnant collapse. Other works, which wrap invisible torsos in bronze jackets (House I, House II ) or skeletal furniture in warm sweaters (Architecture ), seem to be reviving cold bodies and cold design from hypothermia. Wurm stretches wool sweaters over the cold, white walls — Knitted Wall II (metal pink) and Knitted Wall (mental purple). And his The bob sculptures — large polystyrene and paint suggestions, which range in height from roughly 2 to 3 metres and crowd one room like strangers on a dance floor — invite the imagination to tuck itself behind the knee or into the warm belly button (or worse) of a Rubens nude for a cozy siesta. There are other symbols of heat: boiling blood pressure in Wurm's Anger Sculptures : maquette buildings that he's pulverized before casting into bronze and titling Beat And Treat.
As stated in the museum's description, Beauty Business is also the name of a comic book that the artist used to hide from his parents, in various locations of his childhood bedroom. The show shares with this anecdote a thrilling sense of deviance and hint-hint. The very different artworks in the show all seem to delight in a game of "I know something you don't know" — or, perhaps, hide and seek. Walls are hidden, shapes are hidden, booze is hidden, function is hidden, bulges are hidden, references are hidden — sometimes … just as often names are dropped (Giacometti, Munch, Calvin Klein, Francis Bacon, Pollock, and many others), and abstract figures feel like the pay-off of a good peep show.
Like the alcohol concealed in Wurm's "drinking sculptures," the ideas embedded in this exhibition may also cause a sort of depressive hangover — despite being a very clever and humorous show, Beauty Business is also devastating
Beauty Business: Erwin Wurm
Bass Museum of Art
Through 25 March, 2012