Critics’ Picks

Andrea Grützner, Untitled 5, 2014, pigment print, 59 x 39 1/2''.

Andrea Grützner, Untitled 5, 2014, pigment print, 59 x 39 1/2''.

New York

Andrea Grützner

Julie Saul Gallery
1133 Broadway Suite 733
October 29–December 23, 2016

“The house protects the dreamer,” Gaston Bachelard wrote. “The house allows one to dream in peace.” Andrea Grützner is drawn to visual liminality: to the moment, or rather the angle, at which physical reality threatens to dissolve into aesthetic abstraction. Though these photographs are all shot in the same East German village guesthouse, it’s often hard to tell just what the artist is looking at. Her carefully geometric shots—devoid of any messy human traces—are closer in spirit to László Moholy-Nagy’s abstract paintings than the feature spreads of Dwell magazine.

Their effect is initially disorienting—dimensions blur and flatten. The guesthouse becomes a mysterious labyrinth of lines and shadows. But Grützner’s hospitably bright colors hold our attention, and slowly we come to make sense of what’s before us. Untitled 5, 2014, for example, is neatly divided into two vertical panels: one largely white, the other an amalgam of colored polygons. For a long while we bathe in pleasing ignorance: Is that an incomprehensibly painted ceiling? Then a line near the top reveals itself to be a water pipe, seemingly going into the photograph. We are facing a wall—no, two walls, at differing scales. Which means there’s a third, perpendicular wall hidden from us.

The visual discovery has a metaphysical echo. Depth, we realize, hides at the surface. Look hard enough and your reverie will yield meaning. The guesthouse’s transient nature is especially relevant in this context. Facing her own walls, Grützner might have dwelled on more personal history. But this common refuge confronts her with universal questions.