Critics’ Picks

View of “Andrea Kvas: Project Room #3,” 2019.

View of “Andrea Kvas: Project Room #3,” 2019.

Milan

Andrea Kvas

ARCHIVIO ATELIER PHARAILDIS VAN DEN BROECK
via Marco Antonio Bragadino, 2
September 30–December 21, 2019

Two self-supporting structures, resembling minimalist totems, form Andrea Kvas’s installation Untitled (Cornie), 2019, created for the space of the former Milanese studio of the late outsider artist Pharaildis van den Broeck. Born in Belgium in 1952, Van den Broeck built a career in Milan as a fashion designer, working for brands like Versace and Missoni. In the mid-1990s, she quit design to start painting: an activity to which she utterly and exclusively devoted her creative efforts until her death in 2014, producing a gargantuan oeuvre of more than two thousand paintings and as many drawings. Halfway between ingenious framing devices and autonomous sculptures, Kvas’s intervention could be interpreted as a postmortem dialogue with Van den Broeck, an artist who approached painting as an extremely private, introverted exercise and who deliberately isolated her work from the art discourses of the time.

Kvas conceived the two sculptures on view here as supports for four paintings by the Belgian Italian artist. Made of vertical wooden boards arranged together to form pillars, they graciously accommodate the canvases hanging on their surfaces, and each responds differently to the formal qualities of the works that they frame. In one example, the raw materiality of Van den Broeck’s paintings—two untitled works from 2011 that she originally used as color palettes and later turned into semi-figurative compositions—contrasts with the sleek gray surface of Kvas’s structure. In the other, his roughly painted plywood boards echo the colors of the two untitled still lifes they enclose: each one a joyful combination of pink, blue, aquamarine, and purple.

The frame—that bridge between the painted surface and the outside world—was a recurrent concern in Van den Broeck’s art. Some of her sketches (also on view at the Archivio) reveal complex framing structures the artist designed over the last ten years of her life but never realized. Taking inspiration from these drawings, Kvas has created a setup that extends Van den Broeck’s investigation into the sculptural possibilities of painting. Here, the function of the frame is no longer to limit or define the boundaries of the picture; instead, it expands the paintings’ surfaces into three dimensions.