Critics’ Picks

Roxy vs. Capitol, 2003.

New York

Tobias Putrih

Max Protetch
511 West 22nd Street
September 19–November 1

In MoMA’s 1952 exhibition “2 Houses: New Ways to Build,” Buckminster Fuller’s hyperefficient geodesic dome went head-to-head with Frederick Kiesler’s “Endless House,” which boasted colored skylights and resembled a sort of avant-garde yurt. If Fuller’s house was the apotheosis of utopian functionalism, Kiesler’s was rooted in a more expressionistic (read: flakier) strain of modernism that could be traced back, via Kandinsky, to theosophy and spiritualism. At Max Protech, photocopied documents relating to “2 Houses”—press releases, reviews, correspondence—are tacked to the wall, establishing the overarching theme of Slovenian artist Tobias Putrih’s show: His artlessly cool objects are explorations of the internal conflicts that animated twentieth-century modernism. Unity, 2003, a post-and-lintel construction of eggshells and egg cartons, takes its cues from El Lissitzky’s attempt to create an architecture that reconciled spiritual and material values. Roxy vs. Capitol, 2003—which looks like two slabs of striated rock but is actually made of hundreds of pieces of stacked hand-cut cardboard—is a “monument to the difference in size between early cinema screens” in Europe and America. This information comes from the press release, which carefully explains the conceptual underpinnings of each work. Ordinarily, this kind of reliance on ancillary texts is a liability—but here, the whole point seems to be that the texts aren’t ancillary. Modernist squabbling aside, Putrih’s larger subject might be the reflexive relationships between text and art object, and the ways in which one begets the other across time.