New York

Marek Chlanda

Curt Marcus Gallery

Entitled Ceremonial Group and consecutively numbered, Marek Chlanda’s new mixed-media sculptures (all 1994) are variations on a single form—a large, hollow, birdlike skull with an elongated beak modeled in cloth stretched on a wire support and covered with layers of beeswax mixed with pigment. Singly or in pairs, these forms are mounted on large sheets of plywood that function as supports and pedestals. The artist traces the provenance of this shape to the downcast head of his young son after a rough day in school, but in fact his sculptures transcend any reference to natural forms or specific associations. The unfinished quality and textural irregularity of the surfaces suggest expressionist intent.

His new drawings of ovals also lack a specific referent, evoking both a military shield and a faceless, abstractly patterned head. The drawing constructions were organized in three groups, placed in wooden frames and set on top of metal L-shapes arranged in a grid of crossing lines. This arrangement was seemingly meant to be a critique of traditional modes of presenting drawings, but it succeeded only in obscuring the stark visual impact of each piece.

In this show, Chlanda’s New York debut, the artist departed from his earlier approach to sculpture, which he once described as building “global places” (installations), in which “the terror of geometry—straight angles, geometrically clear surfaces and the relationship between them—was destroyed.” The new works are self-contained bodies that seem to have been frozen in a given “local space.” Chlanda’s lexicon is limited to a few forms in a finite set of positions: up/down, left/right, inside/outside. Veiling visual references and stripping his art of metaphorical content, Chlanda creates sculptures that do not “resemble” anything, rather, these immobilized bodies quietly engage the viewers’ imagination. The sense of sublimated drives and desires that infused Chlanda’s work was reinforced by the sculptures’ theatricality; they filled the gallery with an enigmatic but palpable energy.

Marek Bartelik