New York-based sculptor Urs Fischer gives a whole new meaning to “roman candles.” The artist transforms a typical Roman statue into a form of unspoken performance art simply by incorporating an ignited wick into his wax replicas. Ultimately, the giant candles (of which there are technically three) are melted down.
Fischer’s intriguing re-imagining of Giambologna’s marble sculpture from the late Renaissance, titled The Rape of the Sabine Women, depicts the evolution of a solid, intricately detailed figure into a deconstructed, hardened puddle of wax. What’s most fascinating about this installation as a whole is that the wax figures up on the pedestal are not the only works of art that are destined to soften and mutate into an abstract version of themselves. There is a deceivingly realistic office chair and an onlooking man that, too, are wax statues with lit wicks doomed to face the same fate.
It seems unthinkable for someone to put so much time and energy into producing such a fine series of carefully crafted artworks only to slowly undo all of their efforts, but it does make you think about each of the pieces’ purpose. There’s the actual art on display, the spectator, and the time that’s put into the work (presumably represented by the office chair). Does any of it matter once its run in a gallery or museum has come to an end? Is art obsolete?