Critics’ Picks

View of “Echo Chamber,” 2012.

View of “Echo Chamber,” 2012.


Melvin Moti

Kunsthalle Lissabon
Rua José Sobral Cid 9E
February 9–April 28, 2012

In the accompanying brochure for this exhibition, Melvin Moti states that the show ventures “way out of [his] comfort zone.” This statement may seem surprising in light of the fact that his latest work dials into the same basic coordinates that have characterized Moti’s output thus far, namely his poetic investigations of obscure people and episodes from history. Here, Moti concentrates on Ludwig Gosewitz, a Fluxus artist whose best-known works are astronomical diagrams transformed into geometric abstractions. Some pieces in tempera from this body of work appear in the show alongside Atlas Eclipticalis (all works cited, 2012), Moti’s wall drawing that links a seventeenth-century diagram of the brain with a star chart.

From astronomy to astrology, and from art history to the history of science: “Only connect,” E. M. Forster’s famous motto, could also be Moti’s. The work that gives the show its title, Echo Chamber, however, in part avoids this creative formula, and it justifies Moti’s statement about the experimental nature of the show. It consists of a table that holds a dozen miniature “celestial bodies,” finely executed in blown glass. While Gosewitz also made blown glass sculptures, and was a professor of glass art in Munich, Moti’s do not try to resemble these, nor do they reproduce celestial bodies that actually exist. They are imaginary creations that “echo” the astronomical references of the exhibition. Indeed, Echo Chamber is a work that falls outside the usual confines of Moti’s output because it is object-oriented (and very seductively so), and because the creative impetus of the piece clearly prevails over any conceptual or erudite framework. It is precisely for this reason that the work has a freshness and freedom that is almost new to Moti’s output. One hopes that his successful “transgression” will soon be followed by many more.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.