Critics’ Picks

Ignasi Aballí, Another Attempt of Reconstruction, 2016, whiteout on digital print, 44 x 33".

Ignasi Aballí, Another Attempt of Reconstruction, 2016, whiteout on digital print, 44 x 33".


Ignasi Aballí

Galerie Nordenhake
Lindenstrasse 34
October 29–December 23, 2016

“Something Is Missing” is the title of this exhibition by Barcelona artist Ignasi Aballí, and judging from the series of photographs that gives its name to the show, what’s missing is as enigmatic as the artworks themselves. The photographs depict notices in museums excusing the absence of a work, whether due to being on loan or away for restoration or study. They seem to ask: How does absence materialize?

In many ways, Aballí’s work is about what resists disappearance––what remains anyway. Like many artists who matured in the 1990s, Aballí has created a practice of collecting, archiving, and organizing, holding a mirror to his Minimalist, highly Conceptual predecessors of the 1970s and then adding a layer, and then another one. In Another Attempt of Reconstruction (all works 2016), a broken pane of glass has been meticulously glued back together and turned into a new surface as a photographic print of the object under glass. Double Broken Glass takes it a step further and deconstructs these pieces again, the fragments of the print laid out in a vitrine. A trolley with a mirror for a base, To See the Ceiling, allows visitors a different perspective on the gallery and of the other artworks, calling into question the distinction between art and environment.

The philosopher Jacques Derrida calls the meta-text a “floodgate” and notes that it “excludes itself from what it includes” and thus contains the potential to undermine the stability of its referent. Aballí’s photographs of museum labels asking visitors not to touch the art play with this potential. Once a marker of the artwork’s distinction from other things, when the meta-text itself turns into an artwork, all distinctions crumble. “Even clean hands leave marks,” the recognizable Tate font warns in Label I, and here, evidently, even things that are missing have form.