Franz Erhard Walther

Call to Action

The Power Plant presents the first Canadian solo show of the seminal German artist Franz Erhard Walther


Franz Erhard Walther's first major solo exhibition in Canada brings together bodies of work produced between the 1950s to the present. Call to Action offers insight into Walther’s radical ideas about the relationship between space, object and the human body. Presenting sculptural form, drawing and video, Walther’s influential work emphasizes action. His work sheds light on the potential of spectators to consider their body as a means to activate sculpture and disrupt the space of display and the landscapes in which it is presented.

He first gave this concept physical form with his 1. Werksatz (First Work Set) (1963–69), a work comprised of 58 objects made of fabric intended to be used alone or in a group. The sculptures materialize through measured actions laid out for viewers to enact according to the artist’s instructions: unfolding them, standing on them, lying down inside them and pulling them around and over one’s body. With this approach, Walther’s sculptures transcend their physical and formal qualities to position the viewer’s body, and the space and time it acts within, as material form. Paired with Walther’s 1. Werksatz are a series of videos that show documentation of each fabric piece being activated. Throughout the duration of the exhibition, visitors will be invited to activate various elements, reminding audiences that the work is meant to be physically experienced through their active participation.

Walther’s interest in the body continues in Formantwort (Form Answers) (1989-90). Made of fabric and hung in the gallery, this body of work is installed with the architecture of The Power Plant’s Fleck Clerestory in mind. The dimensions and proportions of the hanging forms make reference to the human body while their spatial configuration calls for a physical experience beyond static spectatorship. Walther does not view the physical form of Formantwort (Form Answers) as a completed work, but rather as objects that must be experienced by the viewer and read by the body. In so doing, Walther relinquishes control of the work’s realization by calling upon his respective audiences to contribute to its final form. Analogous to the visitors’ movement in space, the works are constantly changing. Schreitbahnen (Stride Paths) (1972) and Handlungsbahnen (Action Paths) (1997-2003) will be presented and activated throughout the exhibition at regular hours on a weekly basis. Doing so allows visitors to experience the work within the four walls of the gallery as well as outside at the waterfront, where they will change our perception and engagement with the landscape.

Walther’s Das Neue Alphabet (The New Alphabet) (1990-96) is comprised of 26 sculptural objects made of fabric and wood that formally relate to the letters of the alphabet. A selection of works from this series on view at The Power Plant – hung on the wall or placed on the floor – have a human scale that evoke the possibility of action through linguistic reading.

Through the presentation of Walther’s past and more recent pieces, as well as video and drawing documentation, Call to Action highlights the artist’s and the viewer’s shared role in shaping material form.

Franz Erhard Walther (born in Fulda, Germany, 1939, lives and works in Fulda) is one of Germany’s seminal artists whose work has expanded the wider discussion of contemporary art practices. His work has been featured in significant exhibitions including: Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object (1949-79), Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1988); documenta V, VII and VIII, Kassel (1972, 1982 and 1987); Spaces, MoMA, New York (1970); and Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form, Kunsthalle Bern; Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld; and Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (1969). Recent exhibitions of Walther’s work include Franz Erhard Walther: The Body Draws, Henry Art Gallery, Seattle (2015); Franz Erhard Walther, MUDAM, Luxembourg (2015); Franz Erhard Walther, The Body Decides, WIELS Centre d'Art Contemporain, Brussels and CAPC Musée d'Art Contemporain de Bordeaux (2014); and Franz Erhard Walther, Work as Action, Dia Art Foundation, New York (2010–12). Walther’s work was included in group exhibitions in Canada at a very early stage, including the Musée d‘art contemporain de Montréal (1989), the Art Gallery of Hamilton (1983), as well as the Institut d’art contemporain de Montréal and National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1977).

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