Peppery fur shifts in density, snow-gray and spectral, from leathery sockets inset with amber blinkers. Etymologically, lemurs frolic with the phantasmal much like Lewis Carroll’s Cat, whose stripes unspool into vaporized ribbons. From the Latin lemures, meaning “spirits of the dead,” the Swedish botanist and taxonomist Carl Linnaeus termed lemurs such for their nocturnal patterns, slothful pace and, surely, their monochromatic spook.
Waking from a boozy stupor, Franz West would picture faces in the blanket, which Viennese colloquialism would call “seeing lemuren.” Indulging his Wittgensteinian wordplay, West’s Lemurenköpfe (Lemur Heads) (2001) pantomime this ghoulishness, each head an inflated white carapace full of buffoonery and boorishness—a set of drunken apparitions from beyond the grave. West’s extensive career, to be showcased at the Centre Pompidou in Paris and later at London’s Tate Modern, addressed wit and the possibilities of sculpture to address the social, often with a distending and wriggling approach to form and scale. Inducted by the Vienna Actionists ointeractivef the 1960s, West produced sculptures, furniture, collages and installations that considered “relational” activities, washed-out of the blood-soaked in favor of a joyous, chromatic gloss.