Sonia Leimer

TAXISPALAIS Kunsthalle Tirol
Maria-Theresien-Straße 45
March 4–June 11

Sonia Leimer, Ohne Titel (Asphalt) (Untitled [Asphalt]), 2015, asphalt, dimensions variable.

When visitors step onto the white performance floor that Sonia Leimer has installed in “Autoterritorium”—a piece that extends via slender pathways right up to the walls, adding a second floor to the exhibition space—not only is their own tread softened (the material gives way under the pressure of bodies), but they also inevitably become a component of the show. Indeed, they complete the exhibition. One could characterize the other objects on view also as performative sculptures. Eroberung des Nutzlosen (Conquest of the Useless), 2016, is made up of movable stainless-steel parts based on objects used during 1950s experiments with apes. Here, a group of performers moves the big, unwieldy geometric pieces according to a choreography across the space.

With further works such as Ohne Titel (Asphalt) (Untitled [Asphalt]), a walkable floor sculpture created with ready-mades of found street fragments, and the seat sculptures based on historical materials in the installation Iwanowo, both 2015, the artist poses abstract questions concerning the human capacity for action: How do we handle restrictions to our freedom of movement? How do we use the potential that both proverbially and literally lies right in front of us on the floor? How do we become conscious of our own movement and how can we use this consciousness in order to move again—in order, even, to resist? “Autoterritorium” is a thoroughly political show that neither can nor will hide its poetic side.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.

Franz Thalmair

Walter Pichler

Museum der Moderne Salzburg | Mönchsberg
Mönchsberg 32
November 26–June 5

View of “Walter Pichler: Radical: Architecture & Prototypes,” 2016.

This retrospective of Walter Pichler’s work makes it clear that he remains profoundly influential, both in his native Austria and beyond. Simultaneously working in sculpture, architecture, graphic design, furniture, industrial design, drawing, and occasionally writing, he liberally blurred the disciplinary boundaries between these fields and heralded an expanded notion of what an artist might be.

Take, for instance, Table for Oswald and Ingrid (Prototype 8), 1967. It is purportedly a dining table for two, with inflatable legs and a plastic top with indentations that are meant to function as plates. Embossed with the names of its prospective users—the jazz musician and writer Oswald Wiener and his wife, Ingrid Schuppan-Wiener, whose home was a gathering place for the Viennese avant-garde in the 1960s—it is hilarious as a piece of furniture, but its idiosyncratic form clearly marks it as sculpture. This piece questions both the autonomy of art objects and the “form follows function” philosophy of modernist design while acknowledging the social context of its presentation. Moreover, Pichler’s use of inflatable PVC and other then-new materials further muddied the distinction between design and sculpture.

The artist, in dialogue with interlocutors including architect Hans Hollein, aimed to integrate art into everyday life. With works such as Dormitory, 1968, consisting of four beds (one lost) with sculptural forms, radios, or photographs embedded in each mattress, he expanded the contexts available for artistic endeavors. The strength of this exhibition ultimately lies in the fact that it offers aesthetic strategies that are still highly effective at situating art outside its isolation in order to both trouble and enrich it.

Yuki Higashino

Eduard Angeli

Albertinaplatz 1
April 5–June 25

Eduard Angeli, Fog, 2008, sanguine on paper, 40 x 60”.

Silent space is the dominant theme in this retrospective of paintings by Austrian artist Eduard Angeli. In works from his early desertscapes—For a Great Purpose, 1973, and Fire, 1977—to his cityscapes of the late 1990s, he invites us to see the incessant loneliness of silence on a grand scale. Angeli gradually abandoned human figures and nature (deserts, grasslands, mountains) for strict geometric forms (concrete or stone constructions), and bright pastel shades for crumbling muted tones, all the possibilities represented by the desert horizon for a pervasive sense of dread.

The grim housing complexes of Building and Rear Courtyard, both 2005, emerge from thick black gloom, parodies of the imperial splendor of Venice, Saint Petersburg, or his hometown, Vienna. Single objects disrupt the severe angles of The Passion and Roman Anatomy, both 1986, and Parasol, 2005, with signs of life, while Bar, 2006, Fog, 2008, and Newsstand, 2016, show places of personal interaction emptied of life, leaving the viewer as the only witness to such isolation.

Angeli is an exceptional technician, always reaching a compromise between his desire to make stillness visible and his inclination for abstraction by letting color and mood speak in the absence of voices. Remove the faceless bodies from his early work, or the inanimate objects from his later work, and he becomes a Color Field painter registering the absence of people with washes of hues that could only be given their texture by a human hand.

Max L. Feldman

Akram Zaatari

Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA)
Plaça dels Angels, 1
April 7–September 25

View of “Akram Zaatari: Against Photography. An Annotated History of the Arab Image Foundation, 2017.”

Akram Zaatari’s latest museum show consists of his own work and, just as crucially, work from the Arab Image Foundation—an institutional archive of photography from the Middle East, North Africa, and the Arab diaspora. Zaatari often uses photographs and paraphernalia from the collection as material. For instance, in the descriptively titled A Photographer’s Shadow, 2017, he has re photographed a picture from the collection of a cameraman’s body blocking light, spotlighting the person framing the shot. Throughout the show, one notices the artist identifying patterns—absurd studio props or cars, for example—at times with a wall full of the repeated motif in a grid of images. The cumulative amount of work displayed is staggering, and from it, one glimpses the weight of viewing the AIF’s repository as an artist scanning for significance.

In the two-channel video On Photography, People, and Modern Times, 2010, we see photographs being carefully archived on one screen, while on the other, individuals with a connection to these images reminisce about them. Both sides are offered cleanly and formally, but traces of nostalgia leak through the right channel. Meanwhile, for the installation Twenty-Eight Nights and a Poem, 2010, Zaatari photographed objects he found relevant from Hashem El Madani’s studio and placed those items in cabinets to be selected and shown to visitors during the course of the exhibition.

Zaatari has long advocated that items such as album mounts and notes on the backs of photographs be made equal in importance to the image itself and included in the AIF archive. He has likened his work to archaeological excavation. His careful search for emotion and meaning within each image is far less clinical than that, though. He is more of a storyteller.

Yin Ho

Elena Alonso

Matadero Madrid
Plaza de Legazpi, 8.
February 10–July 30

Elena Alonso, Visita Guiada (Guided Visit), 2017, copper wire, wood, cement, cork, plaster, paint, dimensions variable. Installation view.

Since its inception, Elena Alonso’s drawing practice has continually redefined its own formal limits. It was only a matter of time for her motifs to evolve into sculptural entities. The artist cultivates an ambiguous terrain in her iconography, somewhere between geometric abstraction and organic representation with allusions to the body.

This site-specific project, titled Visita Guiada (Guided Visit), 2017, is a newly commissioned work installed in the cold storage of a former slaughterhouse in Madrid. That she has so successfully translated her personal language, her profound sense of intimacy, into such an overwhelming and complex scenario is stunning. Drawing evolves into space in the form of a hand railing that runs around the columns, which she has covered with a rhythmic succession of materials ranging from copper wire to softly carved wood or plaster, and the architecture of the installation, rather than its surface appearance, comes to the fore. A number of holes in the ceiling provide the only illumination in the show. These were once covered but now allow light to flow down from the floor above. This lighting is eminently unspectacular, as if not seeking to brighten the installation but to emphasize the singularity of the space.

Javier Hontoria