Critics’ Picks

Katrin Plavčak, Strukturalismus unter Koffein (Structuralism on Caffeine), 2008, acrylic, oil,  cotton, 78 3/4 x 98 7/16".

Katrin Plavčak, Strukturalismus unter Koffein (Structuralism on Caffeine), 2008, acrylic, oil, cotton, 78 3/4 x 98 7/16".

Vienna

Katrin Plavčak

Secession
Friedrichstraße 12
July 25, 2013–April 13, 2009

A black curtain, nonperpendicular walls, and the colored, cone-shaped surfaces attached to them interrupt the otherwise white-cube-like space of this gallery. Disrupting the rectilinear system of exhibition spaces is not only a savvy formal decision but also the result of an all-encompassing methodology. Katrin Plavčak seeks to “dissolve the borders of the medium,” and she does so on all conceivable levels. In the main space, the surfaces used for hanging art have been multiplied to accommodate her many images, in which she combines space-travel and science-fiction territories with heads and architectural forms to create a private universe rich in imagery.

Her dissolution of borders takes into consideration almost every aspect of the space: the gallery’s mise-en-scène and the number of artworks displayed, as well as their themes and painterly qualities. The many stylistic references—from Surrealism to realism and abstraction—have an irritating effect and deny any unitary frame of reference. Plavčak seems to want to capture the viewers’ attention with grids and network structures spanning empty pictorial spaces, but since there is no access to these spaces, one inevitably looks to the spatial installation. In one image, Strukturalismus unter Koffein (Structuralism on Caffeine), 2008, strange figures gaze out from behind a spiderweb-like grid: Who is inside and who is outside? The exhibition as a whole produces a similarly irritating effect. Visitors feel as if they were wending alongside the edges of a web of thematic references and architectural interventions that, like a fishnet, seems to hold captive all it encounters. What escapes, the images or the viewer? Or is the site a maze in which the only hope of exit is presented by the helium balloon floating in the middle of the space?