View of “Anna K.E.,” 2011.

View of “Anna K.E.,” 2011.

Anna K.E.

Figge von Rosen Galerie | Berlin

View of “Anna K.E.,” 2011.

“Gone Tomorrow”—the exhibition title alone says a lot. Only the future can determine what happens in the past. All the longing and nostalgia we project onto yesterday can come face-to-face with all the utopian ideas of a brighter—but why brighter?—tomorrow. Nowhere in the tradition of Western art has the idea of utopia been more concretely expressed than in the realm of architecture. From Claude-Nicolas Ledoux and Etienne-Louis Boullée at the time of the French Revolution to Le Corbusier, the ambassador of modernity, architecture has concerned itself with creating spaces for a better, brighter tomorrow. This is one vision of utopia: clearly structured, gravity-defying architecture that reaches for the sky and seems almost to hover at its edge. It is this vision that Anna K.E. pursues. The Tblisi, Georgia-born artist concluded her studies at the Kunst­akademie Düsseldorf in 2010 and currently lives in New York. “Gone Tomorrow” was her first gallery show, following a small solo presentation at the Kunstverein Leverkusen in Germany, and it was immediately convincing. The complexity with which the twenty-five-year-old approached her theme was astonishing. Her architectural models hovered in the room, resting on thin, rounded, rectangular pieces of wood suspended from the ceiling by cords. At first glance, they seemed light, airy, and marked by a clear sense of rationality. On second glance, one saw them as playful and somewhat handmade, with surreal perspectives—present yet somehow aloof, simultaneously timeless and modern, with a certain nostalgia in their invocation of modernity. They are like hybrids of models and children’s toys. In one of them there is even a tiny plastic horse. Anna K.E. uses a great variety of materials: wood, putty, pigments, tiles, lacquer, electrical tape, copper tubing, cardboard, tar, and more. Somewhere in the West No. 14, 2007/2011, the oblong model with the horse, which might evoke a terrace café with large glass windows, consists of foamboard, putty, wood lacquer, and plastic, and is partially overlaid with gold leaf. All of the models display a love of detail on the one hand and a not-entirely-forgivable sloppiness on the other.

Nonetheless, there is an ever-present sense of elegance akin to that in the functionalism of utopian modern architecture. It is perhaps because the buildings she references emerged specifically from Western culture that all these models, which were made between 2007 and 2009, bear the title “Somewhere in the West” followed by a number. They are accompanied by three computer-generated prints, Bedford Ave, Flushing Ave, and Jefferson Ave, all 2011, which hung on the walls, and are almost exact depictions of the objects displayed in the gallery. One then begins to wonder which came first: the computer designs or the models. Like the show’s title, this question bespeaks a reversal of time’s progression.

A colorful rabbit-fur jacket, Without Jewel, 2011, hung in a frame on a lower level of the gallery. A small projector in one of its sleeves projected a video onto the wall. In it the artist, scantily clad, tries unsuccessfully to roll a mattress around herself. It is an absurd endeavor, which clearly brings home the point suggested by the models. Our relationship with utopia is equally quixotic.

Noemi Smolik

Translated from German by Anne Posten.