Franz West: The Ego and the Id

About the Exhibition

The Ego and the Id is internationally acclaimed artist Franz West’s newest and largest aluminum sculpture to date. Soaring twenty feet high, the piece consists of two similar but distinct, brightly colored, looping abstract forms, one bubble gum pink and the other alternating blocks of blue, green, orange, and yellow. The forms curve up at the bottom to create stools, which invite passersby to stop, take a seat, and directly engage with the artwork. For West (b.1947, Vienna, Austria), the sculpture is only truly complete once the viewer interacts with the work. The Ego and the Id is consistent with the artist’s overarching desire to produce sociable environments for viewing art using his signature combination of whimsy and monumentality.

Created specifically for West’s first comprehensive American retrospective this past fall at the Baltimore Museum of Art, The Ego and the Id borrows its name from one of Sigmund Freud’s best known texts, in which he explores the ego’s battle with three forces: the id, the super-ego, and the outside world. This outdoor presentation heightens the connection between West’s work and Freud’s work, allowing these forces to intermingle with the streets of New York City as a backdrop.

Franz West began his career in mid-1960s Vienna during the height of a local movement called Actionism. His earliest sculptures, performances, and collages were a reaction to this movement, in which artists engaged in displays of radical public behavior intended to shake up art-world passivity. In the early 1970s, West began making a series of small, portable sculptures called “Adaptives” (“Paßstücke”). The Ego and the Id is in many ways an oversized version of an Adaptive. The sculpture also directly relates to the artist’s furniture installations, which transform galleries, museums, and public spaces into lounge-like environments. West has described the correlation between his plaster objects and furniture installations as a way to put dreams on earth: “The Adaptives would be the dream and the chairs and tables would be the Earth.”



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