Untitled (Small Root) is a direct cast in actual size of a portion of a tree root in synthetic black rubber. It represents a thick chunk of wood, with flaking bark, bumps and notches on the outer surface, and smoother, flatter sides where the wood appears to have been sawn from a tree. The sculpture was made by creating a silicon mould from the root of a felled tree, which was then cast in black polyurethane. To stabilise the sculpture, its core consists of foam glass, a material that is resistant to shrinkage and to chemical reactions. The work is part of a series of sculptures cast in synthetic black rubber which Peter Fischli and David Weiss started to make in 1986. In 1987 the artists made their first cast rubber sculpture of another root, titled Wurzel (Root) (edition of six, various collections). Produced on the occasion of their large retrospective at Tate Modern in London, Untitled (Small Root) is the smaller one of two sculptures of tree roots cast in 2005. The larger sculpture, Untitled (Big Root), was cast from a more frayed and jagged portion of root than Untitled (Small Root).
Between 1986 and 1988 Fischli and Weiss made about twenty sculptures of everyday objects in rubber, including a dog bowl, a drawer, a cupboard, a candle, a vase, a vinyl record, and the early sculpture of a root. By casting these commonly used objects in black rubber, a material often associated with sexual fetishism, the artists cause the items to appear unfamiliar. The material itself renders the objects ‘robust and indestructible’, while transforming them into ‘archetypal representations of yearnings that are hidden deep in the darkness of daily routine’ (Rainald Schumacher in Sammlung Goetz 2010, pp.103–4.) At the same time, in the spirit of play and make-believe, Fischli and Weiss enjoy creating unexpected associations: ‘if one can see pillows as mountains, one can also make roots out of rubber’ (Weiss quoted in Patrick Frey, ‘The Art of Gentle Repulsion’, in Tate Modern 2006, p.256). Objects from the group of rubber sculptures are usually shown alongside black and white photographs from the artists’ Photographs series made in 2005 (see Tate P20330, P20331, P20332 and P20333).
Untitled (Small Root) was made in an edition of three. The work owned by Tate is number two of the edition.
Bice Curiger, Peter Fischli and David Weiss (eds.), Fischli/Weiss: Flowers and Questions: A Retrospective, exhibition catalogue, Tate Modern, London 2006, p.256.
Ingvild Goetz and Karsten Löckemann (eds.), Peter Fischli, David Weiss, exhibition catalogue, Sammlung Goetz, Munich 2010, pp.103–4.
‘Fischli and Weiss, Roots, 2005’, undated, http://www.swiss-artfoundry.com/artistsprojects/fischli-and-weiss/roots-2005, accessed 18 December 2012.