Fantasías by Elisabeth Wild is a new collage artwork made for the cover of London Underground’s iconic pocket Tube map. The 32nd in a series commissioned since 2003, Wild joins a roster of leading international artists who have made work for this site including Linder, Laure Prouvost, Geta Bratescu, Marc Camille Chaimowicz and Barbara Kruger.
The Tube map cover is the final commission by Wild before her recent passing in February 2020 and forms part of the artist’s long-standing collage series Fantasías. Established out of a daily practice, each work in the series is made from the pages of glossy lifestyle, fashion, architecture and art magazines where Wild would identify forms and colours that she cut with scissors and reconstituted into new abstract compositions. She worked from an archive of these cuttings, using her glue stick to layer shapes and a multitude of colours. To Wild, the process of perfecting her collages was an intuitive act. She avoided direct reference to the consumer objects from the pages, cutting her own shapes, turning the advertisements from images of extravagance into imagined objects, architectures or cityscapes in their own right.
For the Tube map cover, the influence of Graphic Modernism and Constructivism are present – lines run vertically, horizontally and intersect to make geometric shapes that form a tower-like structure. The edges of these small shapes are irregular and angular and at times placed just off-kilter, a reminder of Wild’s 98 year old hand. The resulting artwork is an imagined monument in London Underground’s infamous blue and red palette. For Wild that millions of these maps will be printed and distributed throughout London was thrilling and a small nod to the Constructivists who believed passionately in the translation of ideas and design into mass production, out of the artist’s studio and into the hands of millions.
Just before her passing Wild said of her art-making “sometimes it goes quickly, and sometimes oh my god!”. She had a fierce sense of humour and knew her own mind. She kept it strong by making collages every day and said it made her anxious if she could not work that day. Wild led a prolific and adventurous life of travel and art-making which took her across continents and saw her continue to make work right up to her passing on 11 February 2020. Fantasías was the artist’s final commission and marks a moment to celebrate the life and career of the artist. Born in Vienna, Austria in 1922, as a teenager she fled with her family from the Nazis to Argentina in 1938, settling in Buenos Aires. In Argentina she began working in textile design building on her art studies in Vienna and eventually met her husband, a Swiss textile industrialist August Wild. Together with their daughter, the artist Vivian Suter, they re-settled in Basel, Switzerland where Elisabeth ran an antique store which saw her travel across Europe sourcing items for her shop. Elisabeth emigrated again at the age of 75 to join her daughter in rural Guatemala, in Panajachel, a village on the edge of Lake Atitlan.
A retrospective of her work will open in 2021 at Mumok, Vienna, Austria.
Elisabeth Wild 1922 -2020.