Critics’ Picks

Sonja Vordermaier, Schatten 28 (Shadow 28), 2009, Basotect, dimensions variable.

Los Angeles

Sonja Vordermaier

De Soto Gallery
1350 Abbot Kinney Blvd.
September 12–October 24

The sculpture Schatten 28 (Shadow 28), 2009, which Sonja Vordermaier has installed for “Dämmerzunder” (Twilight-Cinder), her first solo show in the United States, is reminiscent of an enormous, dark crystal. This abstract form, seemingly a mineral, is crossed by layered fissures. Some areas have expansive surfaces, while others are composed of diminutive, staggered edges. The work erupts from the wall near the floor; its offshoots reach far into the gallery space and continue on the other side of the wall. On entering the gallery, viewers are brought face-to-face with its long, pointed extensions. The material––which at first appears to be dense and solid––is actually Basotect, a flexible, lightweight foam made from melamine resin.

Over a period of many weeks, Vordermaier carved the complex structure by using a samurai sword, the only instrument she deemed able to make sufficiently long and fluid incisions. Highly sensitive, the material documents every turn of the blade, every change of speed: Any excess cuts would be impossible to conceal. Vordermaier’s direct, virtuosic process here is perhaps most comparable to gestural painting. Despite their imposing physical presence, Vordermaier’s “Schatten” sculptures are, as their titles make clear, also objects of the imagination. If viewed as superimposed shadows translated into a sculptural form, the work becomes a sort of paradoxical representation: a reversal of the projection process, by which three-dimensional objects are represented as two-dimensional surfaces—as silhouettes. In this work, Vordermaier imagines the immaterial in three dimensions.

Vordermaier further explores the central theme of fleeting incarnation in five photos from the 2008 “Volatiles” series. In these works, a bush sprouts far-reaching, shadowy arms; twirling leaves give substance to a gust of wind; and light shining through cracks, from behind a closed garage door, becomes an independent form. These photos are pedestrian snapshots in which negative forms take on a sculptural nature.

Translated from German by Jane Brodie