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Review: 'B. Wurtz' demands attention at White Flag

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 26, 2012 - What may first appear as a hipster delight of neon deconstruction slowly becomes a captivating presentation of B. Wurtz’s found materials and assembled wit. B. Wurtz, a survey of the artist’s sculpture from 1980 to the present at White Flag Projects, is smartly curated.

The main room's balanced design is sprinkled with plastic croppings of various sizes, beginning with Untitled, 1997, that evokes a dismantled teepee or perhaps upturned chandelier. Wurtz is a master of the plastic shopping bag, cutting, re-piecing, and re-appropriating it in various forms of consumer nuance.

As explained in the show’s catalog, Wurtz limits his items to those related to food, clothing, and shelter, with food containers, labels, and plastic bags a staple in his work. These discarded materials that make it into homes and are held between the world’s fingers are picked up again, refashioned into a simplistic beauty, reminders of the materials composing life’s necessities.

While many of the works recall more notable artists – Jasper Johns and Alexander Calder, most prominently – Wurtz maintains his originality. Untitled, 1980, depicting a red school binder strung onto a piece of wood and hung on the wall, contains a simple irony one cannot help but smile at.

Untitled, 2012, displaying three wooden poles with attached plastic bags, one reading “Brooklyn Museum” and another “Ace Hardware” seems to define itself cleverly. And Untitled, 2009, on the gallery’s back wall, evokes a minimalist map of consumer smiley faces and color coordination.

Many of the pieces in the exhibit are likeable in an unclear way and a few barely stimulate. But as a whole, the exhibit is emotive, leaving the viewer with both tightness and air. B. Wurtz is a witty remark on life’s material convolution, created and presented in complicated simplicity.

This is not an exhibit to walk through in 10 minutes, make sure to spend the time to really look.

Rachel Heidenry holds a B.A. in art history and human rights from Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y. A former Beacon intern, she recently completed a Fulbright research grant studying mural painting in El Salvador and is currently a fellow at the Slought Foundation in Philadelphia.

We asked her to return to St. Louis and give us her take on some of the art exhibits that have opened recently. Heidenry is also the daughter of features editor Donna Korando.