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Behind the Exhibit: Wade Guyton Peter Fischli David Weiss

Aspen Art Museum pulls out all the stops for these contemporary art titans

Aspen may be better known for extreme sports than experimentalism, but the Aspen Art Museum is taking the local art scene to new heights. The new exhibit “Wade Guyton Peter Fischli David Weiss” spans all four stories plus the rooftop sculpture garden, which, incidentally, is the only public roof space in town. The largest in the museum’s history, the exhibit brings together American painter Wade Guyton and Swiss sculptors Peter Fischli and David Weiss, known collectively as the art duo Fischli/Weiss. 

Together, the three form a hydra of non-traditional artists known for taking risks aesthetically and mechanically – Guyton by feeding unconventional canvases through inkjet printers and Fischli/Weiss by creating complex systems out of mundane objects, as seen in the seminal work Der Lauf Der Dinge (The Way Things Go).

While both acts have long specialized in tinkering with mixed media, they have also adapted with the times. Guyton’s new series “The New York Times paintings” features text like “ISIS Claims Responsibility,” a stark contrast to earlier minimalist works. And while Fischli/Weiss were known for their playful, rustic creations, newer work explores themes of travel and internationalism (see: The Visible World, a collection of 3,000 transparencies taken between 1986 and 2012).

New York Times painting by Wade Guyton

“There’s a really nice pairing between Guyton’s and Fischli and Weiss’s visual commentary,” says Aspen Art Museum CEO and Director Heidi Zuckerman. “It’s about celebrating experimentation, and I think the fact that we are not on the coast gives us a little bit more freedom to do that.” 

What most binds the show together is the sense that no one involved is taking themselves too seriously. For example, while fire often serves as a metaphor in art, Guyton’s painting of flames crawling up a linen canvas is, according to Zuckerman, quite literal: “[Guyton] made it while working in an overheated studio, so it was really about an expression of feeling like you’re on fire.”

Aspen Art Museum exterior

And while Weiss passed away in 2012, the Fischli/Weiss duo’s playful energy lives on in the sculpture Rat and Bear (Sleeping), inspired by the animal costumes in which the collaborators once performed. “It’s a kind of self-portrait,” explains Zuckerman.If you look closely, you notice that their chests are going up and down. That’s what the show is about; if you really pay attention, your life opens up in these magical and unexpected ways.”