Critics’ Picks

Robert Gabris, “Organs”, 2023, colored pencil on paper. Installation view. Photo: Manuel Carreon Lopez.

Robert Gabris, “Organs”, 2023, colored pencil on paper. Installation view. Photo: Manuel Carreon Lopez.


Robert Gabris

Gregor Podnar Vienna
Volksgartenstraße 3
March 30–May 20, 2023

Robert Gabris uses pencils, scissors, and paper with the surgical precision of one performing operations, even autopsies. The artist works alone, patiently cutting and dissecting his surfaces, incision by incision, to determine what lies beneath (and perhaps even make it whole again).

While rooted in drawings that reference nineteenth-century lexicons of comparative anatomy, Gabris’s oeuvre tends to be socially engaged and oriented toward community-building. For the exhibition “Bodyshop,” the artist has created vivid morphologies in works on paper and cardboard, giving rise to a fragile, meticulously crafted menagerie. In Body composition, 2022, six such creatures—intricate hybrids of insects and mice, with long tails and flickering tentacles—seem to have sprouted from what appear to be human bones. Their almost eerie morbidity is juxtaposed with the colorful joyfulness of the more extensive series “Organs,” 2023, which portrays twenty-four imaginary organs assembled from interlocking silhouettes of innards, both human and animal. Gabris’s extracted parts take on a life on their own, but they also leave in their wake the suggestion of “a body without organs” (a term that Deleuze and Guattari borrowed from the French playwright and poet Antonin Artaud): a body of uncontrolled potential, freed of the organizational structures imposed by its components. 

“Bodyshop” offers an ambitious systematization of the self: a haunting, obsessive search for exact proportion and symmetry with strict rules, moving between order and disorder, the norm and deviations from it, but always within a world that is neither given nor immutable. Instead, it is for us to choose and define for ourselves.