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"Wolfgang Laib: A Retrospective"
2001-02-25 until 2001-05-06
Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington
USA United States of America
Since the mid-1970s, Wolfgang Laib has created objects and installations using such natural
elements as milk, pollen, rice, beeswax and stone. Laib pours milk into marble vessels, sifts
pollen into cone-shaped piles in carefully measured series, forms rice into the shapes of
simple dwellings and builds with beeswax. His contemplative works glory in the inherent
qualities and associations of these media.
Characterized by his deep relationship with nature
and a commitment to the purity and simplicity he finds in Eastern philosophies, his works also
draw inspiration from the formal and ceremonial qualities of non-Western art and ritual.
Especially inspiring for Laib are the temple altars of southern India and the offerings of flowers
and food left for their bronze deities.
Laib's process is solitary and meditative — he laboriously collects his materials and
methodically arranges them. The resulting work is imbued with a solemn gravity, intrinsic not
only in the materials themselves but also instilled in the work by means of the deliberative
processes that go into its production. This gravity is invisible, but its presence remains a
powerful undercurrent to Laib's beautiful and spare work.
While he maintains a profound interest in contemporary art trends, Wolfgang Laib is utterly
self-taught and adheres to no movement or school, remaining the absolute source for his own
work. Originally he did not intend to become an artist, but his deep connection to the beauty
and serenity of nature awoke in him early on a desire to participate in the beauty of nature.
This drive and the experience of southern India inspired Laib to adopt the ceremonial as a
continuing mode in both his life and work, which have become inseparable.
Born in Metzingen, Germany in 1950, Laib studied medicine at the University of Tübingen,
though he has chosen never to practice this profession. He has shown his work around the
world, from New York and Chicago to Paris, London, Stuttgart and Tokyo, and has recently had
solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Kunstmuseum Bonn
and the CAPC Musée d'art contemporain de Bordeaux. He works and lives in a small village in
The artist installs milk into marble form
? x 28 x 51 inches.
Collection of the artist.