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New Aldrich exhibition transforms ordinary objects into collectible artworks
B. Wurtz, Untitled (Pan Painting), 2013. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York.

RIDGEFIELD, CONN.- The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum opened Four Collections, an exhibition by artist B. Wurtz that sets the stage for a compelling dialogue about high and decorative art, form and function, and the act of collecting.

For more than forty years, B. Wurtz has been transforming throwaway objects found in daily life—shoelaces, plastic bags, food containers, buttons, socks, hangers—into elegant, poetic compositions. These inexpensive and disposable materials transcend socio-economic class, passing through every home; but Wurtz has transformed them into artworks.

An ongoing body of work, which Wurtz has been producing since 1990, are his “pan paintings.” These wall pieces are made from ordinary aluminum food containers and roasting pans purchased at grocery or variety stores. He paints over the patterns and texts on the exterior of the pans with various colors of acrylic paint.

At The Aldrich, Wurtz covers three walls of the Leir Gallery, salon style, with more than 200 of his pan paintings and showcase selections from the collection of familiar domestic objects he’s acquired over the years. The objects represent a number of distinctive styles and periods, and have no immediate connection to each other, from American Brilliant cut glassware to Wedgwood pottery and mid-century Danish modern Krenit bowls.

Curator Amy-Smith Stewart said, “The surfaces of the pan paintings pulsate with colorful patterns of red, yellow, green, orange, and blue color hues. They appear like geometric abstractions, but their compositions are actually predetermined by an anonymous maker, as Wurtz accentuates the full range of their embossed designs. The simplicity of these works is what makes them so captivating, yet also so surprising, as one is left to wonder how something so plain spoken could be so wondrous. I can’t help but think of the installation in terms of a Greek play: the gods on one side and the chorus on the other.”

B. Wurtz spoke of the pans in contrast to the items in the three collections, gleaned from thrift stores and eBay, “The aluminum pans might be described as the working class and the other items as the aristocracy. I did enjoy the idea of putting all these things together and maybe messing with people’s heads. I will never deny the historical, political, and sociological inferences that can be taken from this motley group. But I also just love looking at these items together and putting all the rest of that aside. It is fun to just look at them in a visual way, to see what happens formally with the forms, the colors, the textures, etc. In my mind, I do see everything as rather equal.”

B. Wurtz: Four Collections has been organized by Aldrich curator Amy Smith-Stewart.

The Circumstance Series
B. Wurtz: Four Collections is part of Circumstance, the Museum’s new spring exhibition series, which features six solo presentations that explore how artists use context to articulate their work. In addition to Wurtz, artists Virginia Poundstone, Nancy Shaver, Ruby Sky Stiler, Penelope Umbrico, and Elif Uras are featured. During Circumstance, the Museum is transformed into a maze of intersecting installations, where craft, found, utilitarian, historical design, and everyday objects sit beside works of art, showcasing how artists take inspiration from their environments. The exhibitions reveal never-before-seen aspects of the practices of the six artists, as each has been an active collaborator with the Museum’s curatorial team in the development, conceptualization, and presentation of their work.

The Circumstance suite of exhibitions—organized by exhibitions director Richard Klein and curator Amy Smith-Stewart—highlights inspiration and its influence across object-making, through the presentation of specifically commissioned new work by the six artists. Circumstance underscores the intersection of installation art and exhibition design, and show how the convergence of fine art, design, and non-art objects within the exhibition format informs creative expression.

In a participatory aspect of the project, The Aldrich has invited residents of Fairfield, Litchfield, and New Haven Counties in Connecticut, and Westchester and Putnam Counties in New York, to suggest items from visual culture to be displayed alongside work by one of the six artists in order to help create imaginative new contexts for the

The Artist
B. Wurtz was born in Pasadena, California, in 1948; he lives in New York City. He received his MFA from the California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, in 1980, and his BA from the University of California at Berkeley, in 1970. His awards include The Lab Grant Program artist, Dieu Donné, New York (2013); The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Inc. (2012); Peter S. Reed Foundation (2008); Artist and Homeless Collaborative, Park Avenue Women’s Shelter, New York (grant to make collaborative work with residents, 1991); National Endowment for the Arts, Honorarium (post-Olympic art, 1984).

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