Critics’ Picks

View of “Formage de tête,” 2011.

View of “Formage de tête,” 2011.

Berlin

Nairy Baghramian

Galerie Daniel Buchholz
Fasanenstraße 30
April 29–June 25, 2011

Through the staggeringly evocative sculptural works that populate her exhibition “Formage de tête” (roughly, “Formation of the Head”), Nairy Baghramian invokes the subject of creation in a way that references the specific case of her materials as well as the circumstances of formation, generally. The grotesque corporality of the five silicon casts on display is further exacerbated by their vulgar sexuality; each is like several pounds of prosthetic flesh rife with recesses and abscesses, deep folds and low-hanging sheaths. Suspended just below chest height on open metal frames, the works invite close scrutiny of their vast top surfaces and furtive inspection of their supple underbellies. The multivalent notion of conception elicited by these primordial soups also relates to a quite literal ambiguity: The objects that lent their forms to these casts are now absent and unnamable, leaving viewers only to guess, vaguely, of their nature.

Also included in the exhibition is a wall label–size placard listing over twenty materials––such as sheet metal and panes of glass––perhaps suggesting that they either were used in casting, compose the works present, or constitute the exhibition space itself. Snidely implying that such a diversity of elements constitutes a potential recipe for success in contemporary assemblage, the work resonates with Baghramian’s multiplex references to the traditional French kitchen––such as the titles of the casts (the French word for “stove”) or two photographs’ depiction of garde mangers, middle-ranking cooks. For a kitchen’s brigade of cooks––in a way like an artist––is a creative engine that orchestrates the balanced admixture of numerous ingredients (à la fromage de tête) as well as the nuanced preparation of delicacies (à la tête de veau) and carefully negotiates between what is underwhelming and what is overindulgent.