Critics’ Picks

View of “TARWUK: Bijeg u noć,” 2020–21.

View of “TARWUK: Bijeg u noć,” 2020–21.

New York

TARWUK

Martos Gallery | New York
41 Elizabeth Street
November 13, 2020–January 9, 2021

For their debut exhibition here, the Croatian-born artists Ivana Vukšić and Bruno Pogačnik Tremow—who work together as the collaborative entity TARWUK—present an astonishing assortment of drawings, sculptures, and paintings that interrogate trauma, violence, and loss. (Their name, according to the show’s accompanying text written by critic Bob Nickas, is “meant to signal an entwining of identity towards a common purpose: four hands, one mind.”) Per Nickas, TARWUK’s art calls to mind myriad sources, including dystopic science fiction (such as the 1982 movies Blade Runner and Road Warrior), the visceral phantasmagoria of H.R. Giger and Paul Thek, and, perhaps most significantly, the duo’s experiences living through the Yugoslav Wars, which started in 1991 and lasted for an excruciating ten years.

The modestly sized tondo SIGIL_EngV.5 (all works cited, 2020), feels like a lunar deity, hovering close to the ceiling. Its nonobjective forms—a strange hybrid of Russian Constructivism and Orphic Cubism, rendered in dour browns and greens—are darkly hypnotic: eerie portents of things to come. The artists’ large, tenebrous paintings that line the walls feel like portals into ghastly dimensions. One exception, however, is the acrylic-and-oil MRTISKLAAH_Lux_Armor_Lucis.MARIO.0, a depiction of a mysterious, hermetic cosmos, festooned with a byzantine arrangement of esoteric figures and symbols. Compared to the other canvases, it seems lighter in mood, likely due to its intimations of otherworldly spirituality à la Hilma af Klint.

KLOSKLAS_5T1ll43r3 and KLOSKLAS_divco/ZUBB32yeltenb are a pair of freestanding figurative sculptures that appear as though they were disinterred from an ancient charnel house. Built from an array of materials—such as aluminum, paint, plaster, polyurethane foam, detritus scavenged from the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, and human teeth—these fragmented bodies become the show’s sentinels, guarding the threshold between life and death, the past and the future, hope and despair. They seem like the survivors of a monstrous disaster; nonetheless, they are, surprisingly, quite tender.