For more than 30 years, the Swiss artists Peter Fischli (born 1952) and David Weiss (1946–2012) have collaborated on a body of work that transforms the ordinary into something unconventional. Their first collaboration in Zurich in 1979 set the tone for their future works, consisting of a photographic series of doll-scaled scenes where sausages, salami, and other processed meats become the protagonists of various situations and settings, including a car accident, a rug store, and a fashion show. The projects that Fischli/Weiss have made since then are characterized by a quirky sense of humor, a love of poetry, and a fascination for the mundane. Executed in a variety of media, including unfired clay, polyurethane, photography, and video, their works are at once playful and challenging. The artists have unraveled ideas of dualism, dismantling distinctions between high and low art, labor and leisure, fiction and reality, kitsch and beauty, and the banal and the sublime, among others.
Fischli/Weiss's installation on the Bluhm Family Terrace consists of a single snowman encased in a six-and-a-half-foot-high refrigerated vitrine. The sculpture, which is on view during Chicago's warmer months, creates a paradoxical situation that brings together the snowman—normally only able to exist during the coldest winter days—and the sun-filled terrace. This project is a version of Fischli/Weiss's 1990 Snowman (Schneeskulptur), a snowman outside of a thermic power station in Römerbrücke, Saarbrücken, Germany that utilizes the plant's energy to keep the snowman frozen year round. Fischli/Weiss's Snowman presents a combination of utter simplicity and technical complexity, aiming to confuse heirarchies and values by creating systems doomed to fail.
This exhibition is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago with major funding from the Bluhm Family Endowment Fund, which supports exhibitions of modern and contemporary sculpture.
Special thanks are due to the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.
Fischli/Weiss. Snowman, 1987/2016. Courtesy of the artists and Matthew Marks Gallery.