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 that evoke the condition of being human. Wurtz’s sculptures and wall pieces employ a strategy of arrangement hinged upon a simple and direct means of expression, a balancing of two opposing forces—the cast-off and the collectible, the timeless and the ephemeral—that speaks at once to the mind and the heart.
Since 1990, Wurtz has produced an ongoing body of work that he refers to as “pan paintings.” These wall pieces are made from ordinary aluminum food containers and roasting pans purchased at grocery or variety stores. These inexpensive and disposable pans transcend socio-economic class, passing through every home; but by painting over the patterns and texts on the exterior of the pans with various colors of acrylic paint, Wurtz has transformed the ordinary into something invaluable. For The Aldrich, he covers three walls of the Erna D. Leir Gallery, salon style, with over 200 of his pan paintings dating from 1991 to 2015. Appearing like geometric abstractions, their compositions are predetermined not by Wurtz, but by a nameless maker, as he accentuates the full range of their embossed designs. Alongside his own works, on a long shelf, Wurtz presents a collection of common domestic objects he’s been acquiring over the years from second-hand shops and eBay. The objects—from American Brilliant cut glassware to Wedgwood pottery and mid-century Danish modern Krenit bowls—represent a number of distinctive styles and periods, and have no immediate connection to each other. In bringing them together, Wurtz offers up a compelling dialogue about high art, decorative art, form and function, as well as the act of collecting.
Amy Smith-Stewart, Senior Curator.
B. Wurtz was born in 1948 in Pasadena, California, and lives and works in New York City.