The odor of sanctity can sometimes be a literal thing. The religiosity that hung in the air of Wolfgang Laib’s recent show was partly a product of iconography-shapes resembling sarcophagi, walls reminiscent of Egyptian temples, but it was also a synesthetic response to the scent of beeswax. The show consisted of just two architectural-scale works. High on the back wall of the main room was a pair of long, low, peak-roofed beeswax boxes. Each roughly the size and shape of a child’s coffin, they were held aloft by pairs of stubby wood beams that carried them the way an acolyte might bear a reliquary.
The power of Laib’s work, which might be described as Spiritual Minimalism, rests largely on the materials he chooses-such as milk, rice and pollen in addition to beeswax-substances suggestive of life’s essentials and of a kind of numinous purity. There is nothing extraneous, nothing unnecessary in Laib’s work. [extract : Art in America, June 1991, pp. 137-138, 1 June 1991 : Susan Tallman]