Zurich

Eva Rothschild

Kunsthalle Zurich

There has been a renewed emphasis on object making among younger artists, and Eva Rothschild’s exhibition was a virtuoso demonstration of their broad, no-holds-barred reinterpretation of sculpture. Employing walls, floor, and ceiling without recourse to frames or supports, the work immediately conjures myriad references, from the severity of Minimalism to the kitsch playfulness of designer accessories, incorporating both industrial production techniques and a crafts aesthetic.

Each of the three rooms here included both types of work that Rothschild has been developing—abstract geometric sculptures and representational works that amalgamate objects and images from various “alternative” cultures. Each mode becomes most interesting where it takes on qualities from the other, shifting between appropriated vocabularies and suspending any formal reading to create unresolvable sequences of meaning. Disrupting the purity of the abstract geometric sculptures is, for example, Silly Games, 2003, a pair of ornamental ceramic cats bound together by a leather coil, while in the curtain piece Second Sun, 2004, an image of a red sun is constantly dissolved by the movement of the plastic strips on which it is printed.

Rothschild’s large freestanding sculptures combine wood and aluminum with newer, artificial materials like MDF, Plexiglas, and resin. The triangular forms of Fort Block, 2004, or the diamond ones of Matchmaker, 2003—narrow strips of wood painted black with red undersides—are drawings in space, hovering between the graphic line and the three-dimensional experience. However, in Mass Mind, 2004, the upright triangular forms in black Plexiglas have a different sensibility: Interlocking and punctured with large circular holes, they at once reactivate and trivialize the iconic forms of Anthony Caro or Richard Serra, but also quote the bland, shiny sculptures used to embellish ’80s corporate environments.

While the sculptures look like they could have been assembled from pieces out of an IKEA-type flat pack, conversely, the 2-D surfaces of the wall works are given depth by Rothschild’s process of weaving long strips of paper to make a relief. This hybridization extends to both technique—the handiwork contrasts with the mass-media copying process of the found images—and content, where Rothschild literally weaves two images into each other. The five-part work Hand and I, 2003, for example, repeats large photocopies of a pair of eyes and rays of the sun, combined with images of hands in two of them and flower garlands in the others. Neon colors introduce an additional ambiguity through their connection to both kitschy poster art and New Age romanticism.

A kind of designer spiritualism also imbues the fetishlike Town and Country, 2003, a cluster of leather heads supported on a steel pole and hung with strips of silver, red, white, and black leather. Similar to the two objects in the exhibition incorporating sticks of incense, Disappearer, 2004, and Burning Tyre, 2004, this work appropriates both ancient religious rituals and the utopian subcultures of the Western world that they have inspired. Like all of Rothschild’s work, however, this piece is not a nostalgic reanalysis of an idyllic past but represents a desire to be part of an evolving history that reinvigorates the meaning of what have become transcultural codes.

Felicity Lunn