Susana Solano

Museum Abteiberg

In 1949, Sigfried Giedion described modern sculpture as having atavistic elements, as divulging “a reminiscence of the eternal source,” adding, “Its essence is to be sought in the way it shapes and forms space.” In these terms, the new pieces by Susana Solano are thoroughly modern. By dealing with the sculpture of the ’60s without quoting it and, additionally, by including the seemingly utilitarian esthetics of furniture sculpture of the ’80s without stylizing it, Solano places herself firmly within the discourse of contemporary sculpture. This exhibition consisted of four recent pieces, one of which was conceived specifically for the museum. Solano’s quartet here demonstrates how a “metaphorical Minimalism” (Adrian Searle) can be created with this kind of modern sculpture: with the freedom to disrupt or even abolish spatial limitations through itself.

Atavism, rigorous attention to every detail, and far-reaching contemporaneity, as well as a concern with architecture, are the themes of Solano’s esthetic. Her work overflows with associations. They are meant to shake up the relationship between sculpture, spatial reality, and subjective experience deliberately by applying both human measures and spatial, sculptural ones. One of the methods she uses to achieve that goal is to make the lines of separation among these realities a metaphor. Far from the cutting edge of experimentation with contemporary sculpture, Solano’s quiet works—which assume the forms of a cage, a cabinet, a container—seek a universal context of general associations. Internal grandeur and external persuasiveness are generated by the way in which they disjoin and/or join the inside and the outside. Each piece always establishes new relationships with regard to size, distance, and insight. This is where her formal, esthetic accent is most effective: it allows us to experience two-sided places without a discernible function, without a discernible center

In NO, 1988, for instance, Solano creates a metaphorically charged atmosphere from both inside and outside. Four surfaces that look like the bars of a cage permit glimpses of a construction whose context seems to be a solidly built border. The issue is the individual cell, the human and architectural viewpoints from inside and outside. The limits of the construction open onto external space, associating both exterior and interior space with a primal form of openness and closure. The viewer experiences the interdependence of both realms, their incompatibility, and, ultimately, their irreconcilability. The form itself, however, has its own earnestness; it is autonomous. Remote from any utilitarian world, it defines a “vital space of transition” (Teresa Blanch); it reaches for the “presence of inner spaces . . . because they are charged with more atmosphere than the form that captures rooms” (Solano).

By penetrating into atmospheric borderline areas, Solano’s sculpture opens our mental frontiers and invites us to witness something fundamentally new and universal. The simultaneous exposure of inside and outside, as well as the silent intensification of place, yield to a conjoining of rationality and metaphor, limitation and restriction. This synthesis articulates a sculptural concept that aims not only at the formal shaping of a clearly defined problem, but also at the principle of the self-liberation of form from a strong, logical, spatial order. This process succeeds here in a unity of site and form and becomes all the more critical when the site restricts the unity for the form. Arcangel Gabriel, 1989, created especially for the round, domed room of the museum, comments on the given architectural conditions of this space as a reversal of its light, space, and energy. The result loses itself in a decorative, spatial language that sinks far below what Solano effortlessly achieves in her other works.

Norbert Messler

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel.