Critics’ Picks

Liza Bobkova, Buffer zone, 2019, installation, dimensions variable.

Liza Bobkova, Buffer zone, 2019, installation, dimensions variable.

St. Petersburg

Liza Bobkova

Tchaikovsky St., 61
September 12–November 15, 2019

Liza Bobkova has made some of today’s most vexingly opaque issues—those of privacy and encryption—central to her multimedia debut exhibition at MYTH gallery. The space, which collector Yulia Vyatkina and gallerist Olga Profatilo opened in May of this year, promises to play a tutelary role in exhibiting emerging artists in a city that has long thirsted for more contemporary-art venues. Bobkova has covered the gallery’s pristine white walls with numerical sequences in black crayon. These numbers, we find out, are actually messages the artist received from acquaintances on social media and later encoded herself. It is also her voice that we hear in each subsequent room, reading aloud these sequences with an occasionally emotional timbre that hints at the messages’ original content. Through this encryption, Bobkova fabricates a veil of privacy that is, she seems to argue, of questionable utility in today’s web of digital communication.

However, her watercolors and etchings convey a different world, one that melds personal dreams with larger societal concerns. The artist studied metalwork at the Saint Petersburg State Academy of Art and Design, and her brass etchings such as Some Kind of Coziness and Sing Bitch (all works cited, 2019)—with surfaces assiduously creviced and curved with acid—seem riven by deep fault lines and enigmatic references. In the exhibition’s titular work, Buffer Zone, assorted brass cutout silhouettes—among them, a blunt, an unmade bed, and a disembodied hand—are installed across a wall. These floating icons evoke a mysterious inner life, one full of emotions that are impossible to reconstruct. Eventually, I stopped trying to piece together a narrative, instead relishing Babkova’s inventive constellations that had perhaps become the “buffer zone” she wanted all along.