Critics’ Picks

View of “Robotic Cells,” 2014.


Ursula Mayer

Krobath | Wien
Eschenbachgasse 9
April 30–June 7, 2014

With “Robotic Cells,” the London and Vienna–based artist Ursula Mayer demonstrates that binary categories such as fluid/fixed, haptic/ephemeral, and feminine/masculine need not necessarily stand in opposition. The artist, who works primarily with film, video, performance, and installation surprises here with a selection of new small-format works, all of which elude unequivocal attribution.

A group of sculptures on the floor and on metal pedestals offers up an unusual blend of materials. Evoking characters in a science-fiction novel, the lower portion of these pieces feature brightly colored stained glass through which one can see into the interior of the object and beyond; the upper portion is made from casts of polyester that tower above as an extension of the glass body and adorn the tip in the form of a mouth. Clear yet stained, glass but dull, these organic-looking shapes don’t only seem to bear the sexual characteristics of men and women but also seem to be constructed to develop into a new life form.

A second group of works consists of rectangular castings that the artist has hung on the walls. Here too, two materials combine and harmonize. The gray monochrome and hardened concrete—marked all over with the smallest air pockets—is pierced with supple cables. These objects seem like the individual parts of a giant, barely comprehensible machine after it’s been dismantled, or as if they are perhaps the leftovers of a bygone vision of the future that fell victim to the present. Here, not only through the combination of soft and firm, moveable and frozen, but also through the merging of contradictory materials and the very different artists that Mayer’s new work brings to mind (from the late H. R. Giger to Eva Hesse), the artist throws all kinds of categorical distinctions off balance and visibly dissolves dichotomies.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.