Come to PLAY at the Gagosian!

By Katie Suh

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New at the Gagosian, PLAY from Swiss artist Urs Fischer is a must-see exhibit this fall. An ensemble of nine office chairs greets visitors as they enter the gallery. But these are not ordinary office chairs. They swivel in place, glide across the gallery space, and appear to take on lives of their own. Fischer’s interest in escaping traditional art norms is echoed in PLAY, where viewers are invited to walk a fine line between spectator and participant. But just as much as we are free, the objects of exhibit (the nine chairs) are also in a sense, autonomous – as they appear to roam the gallery on their own volition.

The longer one watches, the more challenging it becomes to distinguish between random movement and orchestrated choreography. Viewers may find they feel compelled to in fact play with the chairs.  And in time, the interplay between the spectators and the objects of spectacle seamlessly forms a play of its own – perhaps an area Fischer wanted to explore in the first place.

The chairs, by Humanscale and the celebrated industrial designer Niels Diffrient, are spectacles in their own right. Fischer selected nine different variations of the Freedom chairs so each one has a distinct design identity. From Crayola-like colors, to various configurations of headrests and armrests, each one captivates the audience as it moves. Though extensive engineering and programming helps to create the magic of the scene, viewers still buy into the illusion of this fictional world of play as they interact with the colorful chair-like critters or critter-like chairs.

According to the Gagosian, “Play, a ritual older than humankind, has set rules that distinguish it from reality, but it has no clear aim or value other than itself. Instead, it is merely a feedback loop, a push/pull of energy, bound by time and place. Accordingly, the chairs seem to behave in such ways as to belie some level of predictability—only to then debunk the illusion.”

Come to play and let yourself escape from reality for a bit at the Gagosian. PLAY is on view at the Gagosian until October 13th.

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Artwork © Urs Fischer. Photo: Chad Moore. Courtesy Gagosian.

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