Wolfgang Laib likes to retreat from worldly business, the hurly-burly of the world. He then limits his contact to the phenomena of nature. Mother Nature is the starting point for his work. From things and processes existing in nature, he takes the motifs of his art. From nature come all of the materials he uses. He lives and works in harmony with the natural course of the year and its seasons: times of major work, when dandelion, hazelnut or pine is in bloom, and times of quiet in winter, when he polishes the marble for a milkstone in his atelier. Thus the artist concentrates his work on few and selected materials and substances: pollen, milk, beeswax, marble, rice and sealing wax. From every choice of material comes a family of art works which unfolds slowly yet steadily: in 1975, the first milkstones are created; in 1977, Wolfgang Laib collects flower pollen for the first time; in 1983, he does his first work with rice, and in 1987, he begins with beeswax. It seems as though he is first obliged to consult with the material by means of searching observation of its essence that is close, careful and thorough, in order to assign to it then the particular form, which he goes on to develop and to characterize in ever new variations. For this reason, Wolfgang Laib never brings any of his groups of art works to a final close. They exist next to each other, of equal value and of equal importance.
When the visitor enters one of Wolfgang Laib's exhibition rooms, he or she is taken in by another order of being. Away from the everyday world, visitors are caught by the auratic message of these simple works of art, the natural sustances of which seem to allow them to have a part in – or a part of – the splendour of the cosmos. The works of Wolfgang Laib make possible an experience that has become unaccustomed or alien to our times. They open up for us a new depth of experience, and lead our meditative gaze to domains in regard to which our civilization shies away from acknowledging the truth.
Most of the installations done by Wolfgang Laib exist only for a limited time, because they are fragile or – as in the case of spread pollen – almost fleeting, transient and immaterial. The cast milkstone as well, of and in itself, has no permanence. Its temporary appearance makes it both appropriate and difficult for an exhibition touring different locations: each setting up, every display of the works necessitates repetition of the ritual of their creation as recreation. The period of time of their production finds its complement in the time of their staging as an exhibition.
The works of Wolfgang Laib unfold their magic in varying locations anew and differently. To do justice to this, ifa has come to an agreement with the artist: a basic stock of art works will be acquired and form the basis of the exhibition. In consultation with Wolfgang Laib, each museum has the possibility to add to it, utilizing works borrowed for the duration of the respective exhibition.
This basic part of the exhibition includes a milkstone dating from the year 1977. With these marble stones, ground and hollowed only to the depth of one millimeter, then filled with milk to their horizontal level, the work of Wolfgang Laib begins. Other works include three jars of pollen from pine blossoms (one jar in reserve), meals of rice from the year 1993, a house of beeswax, two rice houses of marble, and the installation entitled "Passageway – Overgoing" with seven ships of wax and a wooden shelf. To these can be added, if possible and desired, a ziggurat of wax, for the construction of which approximately 1200 kgs of beeswax were used.
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