It’s hard to ignore a work by Urs Fischer. Transforming humble materials into the boldest of sculptures, paintings, and objects, the Swiss artist revels in visual hijinks that destabilize the viewer. He’s made an alpine chalet out of loaves of bread, cut an eight-foot-deep gaping hole in the floor of a gallery, constructed a 20-ton bronze teddy bear sculpture slumped against a desk lamp, and carved a mammoth wax candle replica of Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabine Women, its wick lit so that it melted over the course of Fischer’s 2013 retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. In June, Fischer plans to show new works at Sadie Coles Headquarters in London, and this summer, at Karma gallery’s outpost in Amagansett, New York, he will unveil a giant candle sculpture of the painter Julian Schnabel sitting atop a pile of crates (his wick is likely to be ignited as well). With a nod to Dada, Pop, and surrealism, Fischer toys with shifts in scale and the colliding realities we experience daily in this era of visual overload. His cover for this issue, for example, references his 2012 Problem Painting series on aluminum panels, in which he obscured (or perhaps defaced?) publicity head shots of 1950s film stars with silk-screened images of assorted fruits, vegetables, and household items. Photographing Pharrell Williams in Los Angeles, Fischer initially thought he might show the star carrying a cutout of his own crafted image on the cover but then adapted the idea to feature women—the subject of Williams’s new album, G I R L—toting around variously sized Williams cutouts near Fischer’s studio in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Since Williams wore his signature hat in the photo Fischer ultimately shot for the cover (“It’s like an Andy Warhol wig or something,” says the artist. “It gives a clear identity”), Fischer decided to use an object large enough to conceal the face, while still revealing certain aspects of it. His idea all along, he says, was not to create a portrait so much as come up with a powerful image that would result from the clash between his photo of Williams and the bolt that playfully hides him. “Pharrell’s world is a gentle, good world,” Fischer, 41, says admiringly. “You think he will evoke something that’s alive, like a flower, because of his public image. But I opted to do the opposite. There’s a very masculine energy to the image. I thought, Why not take it there? After all, Pharrell ventured into my turf; I didn’t venture onto his.”
Williams photographed by Joshua White/JWPictures.com. Special thanks to Tara Subkoff. Hair by Edward Lampley for Bumble and bumble at D+V Management; Makeup by Anne Kohlhagen for Chanel. Models: Herieth Paul, Frida Aasen, Heather Marks all at Women Management; Tong Zhang at Next Model Management.