Critics’ Picks


Roman Signer

Istituto Svizzero di Roma - Villa Maraini
via Ludovisi, 48
March 23–July 1, 2018

This survey of Swiss artist Roman Signer comprises thirty-four works that highlight the artist’s concept of “action sculpture,” a mode that combines empirical creation with the intrinsic potential of the object’s nature. The show begins on the villa’s exterior porch. Planschbecken mit Schwimmflügeln (Wading Pool with Water Wings), 2018, an inflatable pool full of water and floating plastic water wings—starkly superimposed against the circular geometry of the mosaic floor paving—establishes an immediate relationship with the architecture of the site. This piece opens up a central sequence that involves two other works: Teppich (Carpet), 2002, consists of a rifle resting on the ground, aimed at a target positioned beyond a raised-up red carpet. In Kayak Spitze (Kayak Tip), 2010, half a canoe is positioned vertically, similar to one outside that functioned as a spuming “volcano” during the opening performance.

In large adjacent rooms, black-and-white photographs with identical gray frames, made between 1973 and 1986, reveal the enchanting and experimental qualities in Signer’s work. The artist uses man and nature to describe a world hovering between artifice and physical forces, preferring to capture on film the crystallization of experimental processes. This is evidenced by Tish, 1986, in which a table balances on buckets brimming with liquid, as if to illustrate Archimedes’s principle—or in Krater und Kegel (Crater and Cone), 1973, where, due to the force of gravity, a parallelepiped containing sand creates a cone and its corresponding void. Always products of their time, Signer’s works often make use of new technologies. Deckenbemalung (Ceiling painting), 2018, a constellation of blue dots painted onto the ceiling, was made using a drone equipped with a shaving brush.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.