Prague

View of “Monika Zawadzki,” 2011. Foreground: Dan Perjovschi, Think at Have, 2011. Background: Monika Zawadzki, John & Paul & Ringo & George, 2011.

View of “Monika Zawadzki,” 2011. Foreground: Dan Perjovschi, Think at Have, 2011. Background: Monika Zawadzki, John & Paul & Ringo & George, 2011.

Monika Zawadzki

SVIT

View of “Monika Zawadzki,” 2011. Foreground: Dan Perjovschi, Think at Have, 2011. Background: Monika Zawadzki, John & Paul & Ringo & George, 2011.

Monika Zawadzki’s fascination with the relationship between amorphous matter and the various forms it takes on was the point of departure for her exhibition “Blackbird.” The vastness and mutability of matter, its transformative potential, and its capacity for memory (new objects and shapes are not free of the traces of their predecessors) are key concerns for the Polish artist. They serve as the basis for her experimentation with hybridity: Only a hybrid visual language, she believes, has the power to mediate the natural hybridity of the world’s entities and creatures.

The exhibition was dominated by a room-filling black object, John & Paul & Ringo & George (all works 2011), which fuses organic and inorganic forms. The work’s vastness and the concomitant impossibility of perceiving and grasping the object all at once create a tension among the distinct shapes, both geometric and organic, out of which it is formed; the shapes seem to change with the spectator’s movement around the gallery space—thereby also changing the potential content of the piece, yet with no apparent relation to its title.

Zawadzki’s decision to invite Dan Perjovschi to participate in her exhibition might at first have appeared as an attempt to provide a contrasting setting for her own work. The Romanian artist’s work Think at Have, 2011, was presented in an “anti-ostentatious” manner, specifically as a pile of about a hundred photocopies of a drawing. Perjovschi is known mainly for his cartoonlike drawings commenting on political and social phenomena, yet in this case the subject of his commentary remains enigmatic. The ephemeral and topical nature of Perjovschi’s contribution would thus function as a counterpoint to Zawadzki’s approach, rooted in the process of movement, gradual transformation, and interconnection of material phenomena through time. True enough, but Perjovschi’s drawing also worked in the exhibition in another way that emerged through its relationship with Zawadzki’s other works on view: a video showing a schematically depicted female figure with its head placed on a pedestal (Self-Portrait with a Raven) and one featuring a series of equally schematic human heads with what could be best described as a universal and mobile eyebrow, which gradually moves from one head to the other (Say Good Night to Daddy). In these cases, Perjovschi’s drawing seemed not to contradict but to extend the ideas in Zawadzki’s work: While her female figure and faces to a certain extent have a cartoonlike look, Perjovschi, by formally reducing his sketchy figures to their most basic components and furthermore turning the content of the speech balloons into abstract schemata, has stripped the figures of their identity, a gesture characteristic of Zawadzki’s practice. The seemingly casual placement of the pile of photocopies on Zawadzki’s object further underlines the formal and conceptual nature of her work and, most importantly, its polyvalent relation to content and space: On a subliminal level, the spectator is invited by the presence of the drawing to examine Zawadzki’s work and naturally seek hybridized fragments of the familiar.

Although the influence of the Minimalists and Conceptualists of the 1960s and ’70s is evident in Zawadzki’s work, the inclusion of a single decontextualized and quasi-anonymous work by Perjovschi in the show in many ways helped to ground Zawadzki’s oeuvre in broader concerns. By this seemingly marginal gesture, spectators escaped the aesthetic and visual inducements instigated by Zawadzki’s works. They were invited to continue the process of hybridization—to entertain and interlace meanings and interpretations initially considered as other.

Markéta Stará