Monday, July 4, 2011

FÜNF RÄUME at the Austrian Cultural Forum

"They bang you over the head with this stuff. At ten in the morning, I just don't feel like looking at another sculpture about female circumcision." The person talking is David Harper, and the discomfort he's describing is his own, in reaction to some generally-identifiable motifs of contemporary Austrian art: fear, pain, dark sexuality, frank psychology, and politics. In preparation for "FÜNF RÄUME," his second curatorial project at the Austrian Cultural Forum on East 52nd Street, Harper spent a week perusing the catalogues of about a hundred Vienna galleries in search of something else.

His choices were soft-voiced, site-specific, and loyal to themes from pre-war painting and sculpture. Valentin Ruhry's Adaption (2011) is a set of false electric outlets and cable ports that grinningly mirror the already-superfluous white squares on the other wall.

Valentin Ruhry, Adaption, 2011.

Zenita Komad and Michael Kienzer pushed images around from mirrors on a cluster of desk chairs, toying with light and space from non-objective points of reference like a Cubist painting. 

Zenita Komad and Michael Kienzer, The empty mirror, 2011.
Other homages to high Modernism could be seen in Esther Stocker's and Clemens Hollerer's work, where rooms are filled with thin, flat-lines of bold color and sharp-edged polygons.

Clemens Hollerer, On the other side, 2011.
Esther Stocker, Untitled, 2011.
My favorite was Stocker's installation at the atrium of the building, a series of parallel black plastic straps that hang down at various corners from the ceiling.

Esther Stocker, Untitled, 2011.
David enthusiastically pointed out how much the piece, viewed from below, resembles the cover of the Joy Division album Unknown Pleasures:

Esther Stock, Untitled, 2011.

FÜNF RÄUME (Five Rooms) is on view at the Austrian Cultural Forum building until September 5th.

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