Critics’ Picks

Maja Maljević, Document for the People 17, 2018, silkscreen, monotype, collage, and handwork on Korean paper, 12 x 12".


Maja Maljević

DK Projects on Jan Smuts, JHB
142 Jan Smuts Ave
August 23–October 13, 2018

In 2007, seven years after relocating to South Africa at age twenty-seven, Belgrade-born Maja Maljević participated in a print workshop at David Krut Workshop; she has since regularly experimented with techniques that evoke her encrusted style of abstract painting and collaborated with the Johannesburg studio’s printmaker, Jillian Ross. The centerpiece of her exhibition “Polytekton” is a group of sixty-one unique and individually numbered prints, “Documents for the People” (all works 2018). Nested in the democratic title of the print series, which shows off eight different techniques (including silk screen, etching, and monotype) using nine paper types, is a reference to two albums by rock band R.E.M.—Maljević, once a cadet in Tito’s Union of Pioneers of Yugoslavia, was a regular concertgoer in the former nonaligned state.

Displayed salon style, Maljević’s prints—like her two paintings and suite of thirty-five ceramic sculptures, the latter a new departure—offer a bracing fusion of organic and geometric forms. Document for the People 1 and 2 present an untidy assembly of lines, rudimentary shapes, and primary forms in varying tones of blue. This austerity is exceptional: Most of the prints feature a profusion of colors (shades of red and yellow predominate), sometimes layered over somber grounds (black and gray), or, more frequently, on top of intersecting linear marks.

Decorated with elemental forms borrowed from her paintings and prints, the artist’s stoneware and porcelain pieces, made in consultation with ceramicist Caroline Vieira, include three pyramidal forms topped with patterned spheres and a check-patterned, rectangular block displaying twenty-three cubes like cryptic dice. The sculptures are a fecund expansion of her foundational practice into three dimensions. While largely discontinuous with South Africa’s figurative and German expressionist traditions of printmaking, much like the pioneer abstractionist Walter Battiss, color is a ballast for Maljević: It harmonizes difference.