New York

Bozidar Brazda


When producing art for public exhibition, how and to what extent should one reshape the particulars of autobiography into the more widely appreciable generalities of broader human experience? The question was raised by the second solo show at Haswellediger by Canada-born, New York–based artist Bozidar Brazda. The press release, written by the artist, made a superficial concession to universality by supplanting place names with asterisks in a narrative based on events in the lives of Brazda’s family, as if these experiences could happen to anyone, anywhere. Despite this background information, the painted prints, sculptural installations, video, and giveaway posters on view, all accompanied by a loud sound track comprising five versions of the Monkees’ “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone,” remained frustratingly opaque.

Brazda frequently pens tales to accompany his objects, installations, and performances. A missive from a fictional journalist recently sprung from prison by a group of punk rockers who repeatedly query him about Hegel introduced his last solo exhibition, in which the IBM Selectric typewriter he writes with was among the objects on view. In this show’s announcement, the artist mentions an album recorded by his father and his uncle the year after he was born before linking his family’s forced emigration ahead of Soviet tanks, in 1968, to the episode of The Monkees, aired around the same time, in which “Steppin’ Stone” was performed and which also features Soviet spies. It is an inventive association, though one that less charitable viewers might find tenuous. Certainly the link between the sound track—the Monkees’ original and covers by Paul Revere and the Raiders, the Flies, the Sex Pistols, and Minor Threat—and the artwork on view was less than easy to discern.

A small black-and-white poster depicts what looks like a mosh pit (perhaps at a Minor Threat show), complete with stage diver; the words CAFE CORE are printed atop the words HARD CORE in the grainy original image. A stack of these was placed near the door, and four copies were hung around the room, one bearing the painted inscription BEING BOZIDAR BRAZDA and three marked with brushedon additions so derivative of Bruce Nauman’s wordplay (EAT MEET, also painted above a white plaster cast of an ear affixed to another wall) and imagery (two schematic heads, seen in profile) that the gesture must have been deliberate, though the motive behind this homage remains obscure.

Elsewhere, a metal chair, its seat upholstered in leopard-print fabric, and an overturned table—perhaps from Cafe Core—accompany a wall text (printed backwards) excerpted from the press release. It is terse, disenchanted, and epigrammatic: “No one cares about Uptown or Downtown anymore”; “nowadays it’s more about the artist’s head”; “understanding your formative years is more of an act of faith than it is a science.” As text, what with its direct address and lumbering momentum, it has a certain cynical charm, and one can imagine it recited by a jaded hardcore kid idling in a coffee shop. As art, however, it feels limited and limiting. Like Walid Raad, whose slide lectures–cum–performances are more fascinating than his collages, videos, and photographs, it’s possible that Brazda is a more compelling writer and performer than visual artist. On the evidence of this exhibition, it might serve him well to focus on his texts, extending them beyond press releases and capsule descriptions into something more substantial than the fragments found here.

Brian Sholis