Production stills from ART21 Art in the Twenty-First Century Season 7. © ART21, Inc. 2014.
Wolfgang Laib was born in 1950 in Metzingen, Germany. Inspired by the teachings of the ancient Taoist philosopher Laozi, by the modern artist Brancusi, and the legacy of formative life experiences with his family in Germany and India, Laib creates sculptures that seem to connect that past and present, the ephemeral and the eternal. Working with perishable organic materials (pollen, milk, wood, and rice) as well as durable ones that include granite, marble, and brass, he grounds his work by his choice of forms—squares, ziggurats, and ships, among others. His painstaking collection of pollen from the wildflowers and bushes that grow in the fields near his home is integral to the process of creating work in which pollen is his medium. This he has done each year over the course of three decades. Laib’s attention to human scale, duration of time, and his choice of materials give his work the power to transport us to expected realms of memory, sensory pleasure, and contemplation.
In this preview from the ART21 Art in the Twenty-First Century Season 7 episode, Legacy, Laib discusses the role of pollen in his work. He is seen installing Pollen from Hazelnut (2013) at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 2013—sifting hazelnut pollen collected by the artist since the mid-1990s. “I don’t want to explain to somebody what pollen is,” says the artist. “That is the secret and the beauty and the power and the potential of all this.”