ART REVIEW: Artists In Residence 2016: Vienna/Hungary/Croatia, Krinzinger Projekte, Vienna

The exhibition Artists In Residence 2016: Vienna/Hungary/Croatia at Krinzinger Projekte has been extended since its original closing date of May 20 to June 3. The extra viewing time is great for me as a reviewer and art lover because I get the chance to see the show where I might not have able to previously due to time constraints. Yet by the same token the seemingly impromptu extension of this show has resulted in an intermittently fascinating yet overall disjointed experience, as a good sixth or so of the works have already been bought and deinstalled, leaving awkward amounts of leftover white wall space. 

Krinzinger Projekte is the project space of the larger Vienna institution Galerie Krinzinger (located a few miles away), where the younger artists on the gallery's roster have the opportunity to experiment and explore. As a result, the gallery setting is what one would expect of a "project space"--it has a very raw, unpolished feeling, with unpretentious spackled white walls, gray concrete floors, and simple, direct lighting. The show does not lack for variety: there are paintings, collages, sculptures, installations, photography, book arts, and more on display across the three rooms. On the whole, Artists In Residence 2016, which comprises 9 artists from the aforementioned locations, lacks a larger cohesive theme or formal unity; it seems as though the curator has accepted this fact, and decided to just give each artist their own little corner of space rather than trying to group works together in a more creative way. 

The highlight of Artists In Residence 2016 is a series of photographic and drawn collage works by Shuvo Rafiqul. Placed rather awkwardly between two large windows, the three works are hung vertically and comprise a small series: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment, which, taken together, offer a striking if rather downbeat view of illness. While it's not specified, one could easily interpret this series to be about mental illness, with each composition reflecting its title in a recognizable way. Symptoms is a haphazard work, comprising rough pastel strokes and haphazardly-cut out images that speak to a exploration of rage, of loss of control--the so-called "symptom." Just below it, then, we get what one could image to be the "causes" of the symptoms: the inevitable delving into the past. Causes is much more tightly constructed out of tiny black-and-white photographs and pieces of masking tape marked "x," forming almost a patchwork quilt arrangement. Upon taking a closer look, we see that the photographs are all scenes of families (found by the artist at flea markets)--candids, portraits, vacation shots, but family grouping nonetheless. In this cycle, then, Rafiqul seems to be placing the "causes" of the "symptoms" firmly in the past--the memories buried deep in the background and family life that caused the breakdown, the torment, the symptoms. The final work, Treatment, doesn't exactly present a happy ending to this story: the composition of Treatment is almost a return, if slightly neater and more controlled, to the loopy strokes and frenetic composition of Symptoms. Perhaps it's important to note that there isn't a work in this series called Healing; in this cycle, Rafiqul presents a closed circuit comprising three out of four steps in the process of recovery, implying that relapse from Treatment to Symptoms is all too likely.
Shuvo Rafiqul
Symptoms, 2017
drawing and collage on paper
30 x 42 cm
Shuvo Rafiqul
Causes, 2017
photo collage on paper
30 x 42 cm
Shuvo Rafiqul
Treatment, 2017
drawing and collage on paper
30 x 49 cm
Another standout among the artists on display is Rui Miguel Leitao Ferreira, whose large canvases are located near Rafiqul's collages. Ferreira's works are colorful and arresting, made up of layers of paint that has been subsequently scraped away, leaving the colors and forms of previous iterations of the works to peek from behind. The Other combines gray/white and pink/yellow overlapping and chipping away at each other in a fixating if slightly nauseating composition--it almost recalls watching television static buzz by on a screen, jittery and electrifying. Cup, a similar work, substitutes the gray/white of The Other for rich purple, which combines with the pink/yellow to create a groovy, psychedelic vibe. Across from Cup is the most intriguing of Ferreira's contributions, titled The Model. It would be best described as a three-dimensional painting, combining various cavanses, some left partially unstretched. The canvases all rest on the ground rather than on a wall; the smallest canvas in the lower left-hand corner depicts a human head, while the larger central canvas contains a wiry, indistinct human body, half-hidden from view by another canvas that hangs, unstretched, across the lower half of this figure, almost like a blanket. Taking the title of the work into account, The Model presents a wholly empathetic image of the artist's model as subject rather than object. The large head is painted alone, disconnected from a body, left in a corner so that the artist can observe the body without considering the thoughts or interiority inside the neglected head. I almost wonder if Ferreira has a background as an artist's model based on this work, because it seems to be very sympathetic to what it must be like to be seen as only your body.
Rui Miguel Leitao Ferreira
The Model, 2016
acrylic, mixed media on canvas
200 x 150 x 80 cm
While the first two artists I mentioned largely have smaller sections of the space to themselves, it is in the larger rooms where groups of artists jockey for attention and space, creating a feeling of chaos. Christian Eisenberger's One Titel provides a whimsical change of pace, taking the form of a shirt on a hanger, encrusted with literal brambles that dig their burrs into the material and to one another. The shirt itself is hanging normally on its standard clothes-hander, as if it hasn't realized that it is covered in brambles, or as if it simply doesn't care. Eisenberger is, unfortunately, one of the artists who suffers from the extension of the show, as one of his major pieces was apparently already de-installed, leaving him with only three works that have not even been adjusted to make up for the large gap on the wall where the missing work hung.

In the same room, Bernd Oppl's installation Transient combines sculpture with a small handheld video screen in a work that likely requires explanation in order to be appreciate (one that I was luckily privy to from the gallery monitor). The sculpture itself is made up of small boxes all hinging on a single vertical axis, almost like a tree; the video screen plays a loop of Oppl's own video animations. It isn't until one has walked around the work from all angles (or had it explained to them) that the formal project Oppl is undertaking becomes clear: the boxes are actually dioramas that he uses, combined with light effects, to stage the animations visible on the screen. On the screen, the animations look life-size, as if he has projected them onto the full wall of a room, but it becomes clear that it's only a diorama of a room, which he has provided in the same work. He's giving away his secrets in this work, so to speak, and it's a very generous gesture, even if Transient itself isn't aesthetically interesting.
Bernd Oppl
Transient, 2017
steel, acrylic glass, MDF, electronic, monitor, HD video, wood, ferro fluid
150 x 70 x 80 cm
In the last room, Martin Strum's two "aliasing cubes" recall Dustin Yellin's multilayer plexiglass sculptures, although in a much more subdued way. Contained in a large wooden boxlike form on a metal pedestal, each aliasing cube is filled in with delicate mesh material in layers that present entirely different painted compositions when viewed from either side. The bright overhead lighting in the space regrettably made making out the compositions difficult--perhaps a better-tailored lighting concept wouldn't have drowned out the paintings on the mesh. Sturm also has several paintings on display, the most striking of which is Ohne Titel (Series My Woods). The small canvas depicts a series of thin trees in an atmospheric chilly fog, rendered in thin layers upon layers of acrylic paint. 

On the whole, Artists In Residence 2016 feels like an in-progress exhibition--Ferreira's and Rafiqul's thoughtfully-conceived and well-executed works notwithstanding--that could have used a stronger curatorial vision. Evidently, it isn't enough to have access to such an embarrassment of riches, of a coterie of talented artists working in a wide variety of media. Without a clearer attempt at using the artists' works in dialogue with one another in formal and thematic ways, the overall effect of the exhibition is less than the sum of its parts.

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