Critics’ Picks

Salon de Mme. B, 1, 2004.

Salon de Mme. B, 1, 2004.

New York

Katarina Burin

530 West 25th Street
May 14–June 18, 2005

Assembled with painstaking precision, Katarina Burin’s small-scale collages depict vacant, Bauhaus-style interiors. It is hard to suppress thoughts of what sort of people might inhabit these rooms—one could just as easily imagine either Sophia Loren reclining on the couch in Salon de Mme. B, 1, 2004, to give one example, or a hardy grandmother living in the Eastern Bloc. This is the Berlin-based artist’s first New York show, and, along with the collages, it also includes a large folding screen and a drawing on vellum meant to evoke a Soviet propaganda poster (with the oxymoronic title Room for Active Leisure), all of which gently mock the strict functional aesthetic of designers such as Adolf Loos. The folding screen is covered in part by black-and-white photographs overlaid with strips of white paper cut into spirals or triangles. One of the partially obstructed images, according to gallery literature, shows a man looking at the remnants of a shelf designed by Russian Constructivist artist Gustav Klucis that had apparently been destroyed as an act of defiance. The idea of a piece of furniture provoking such a spirited reaction is a little comical, but it is also a little poignant, and in any event difficult to imagine today. One suspects that, for all its retrospective awareness of failed utopias and so forth, Burin’s critique is imbued with no small amount of nostalgia for a time when artists and architects fervently believed their work could engender social transformation, however ill-fated their involvement may have been.