Critics’ Picks

View of “Maria Loboda,” 2009.


Maria Loboda

Markgrafenstraße 68
May 16–June 27

In Maria Loboda’s exhibition, objects are not displayed but arranged to dwell, recalling the “conversational” textures and devices with which Joseph Haydn revolutionized eighteenth-century chamber music. A shock of torn paper pieces on the ground curl into S shapes. Horizontal and vertical bands in washed-out yellows and grays extend from floor to ceiling, forming monumental letters T and F. Strips of mahogany curve to create an arch in the doorway and a linear bulge that extends from the top of a supporting column: Is it a P or D? Or a U, C, or N? A gaping O is burned into a framed print, and two circular ink blotches stain the pages of a book. These minimal gestures of addition and subtraction in the site-specific installation A Room as a Word (all works 2009) create a steady tempo of push and pull in Loboda’s opus to Logos: A hymn to a sublime word that is both hidden and summoned by the artist, only emerging with attentive fruition.

The coda to Lododa’s visual score is offered in a back room, where the artist evokes the body of a harpsichord in A Room as a Song, a minimal boudoir inspired by 1920s Czech Cubism. An open paravent of steel wires veils the intimate salon, where a small wooden divan and a large felt cushion ignore any and all calls to seat the standing, indifferent to the function they were designed to serve. In a 1977 essay on the reaction of nineteenth-century artists to the new consciousness of the object as a commodity, Giorgio Agamben writes, “Just as sacrifice restores to the sacred world that which usefulness degraded and rendered profane, so is the object, torn from the realm of fruition and accumulation, restored to its original status through poetic transfiguration.” Staging quiet rites of sacrifice and séance, Loboda transfigures the exhibition into a mapping of the uncanny capacity of objects to metamorphose into symbols and signs.