Madrid

Maria Loboda, Perilous seat with a rabbit trap. Perilous seat with a pheasant trap, 2011, wood, water color, acrylic, rabbit trap, pheasant trap, 39 3/8 x 117 3/4".

Maria Loboda, Perilous seat with a rabbit trap. Perilous seat with a pheasant trap, 2011, wood, water color, acrylic, rabbit trap, pheasant trap, 39 3/8 x 117 3/4".

Maria Loboda

Maisterravalbuena Madrid

Maria Loboda, Perilous seat with a rabbit trap. Perilous seat with a pheasant trap, 2011, wood, water color, acrylic, rabbit trap, pheasant trap, 39 3/8 x 117 3/4".

Polish-born artist Maria Loboda, who now lives in London, retraces modernity’s footsteps and delves into history, art, and literature by bringing her personal experiences into dialogue with a somewhat eccentric approach to science: She assumes that art can accept what empirical research rejects. The project may not sound unfamiliar, but Loboda gives it a fresh twist by blending these mainstream interests with something more unusual in contemporary art—a profound fascination with transcendental perceptions of temporality. Loboda’s personal universe is stuffed with references to the paranormal. Recurrent allusions to occultism, spirituality, magic, and supernatural forces help us understand why, in trying to keep up with Loboda’s vision, we are endlessly stepping on slippery ground.

But Loboda’s first solo show in Madrid did not revolve so much around the paranormal as around unconsciousness. Titled “Peril,” the exhibition was a hint-dropping exercise in which seemingly disastrous outcomes could be discerned. Danger, fear, trauma, and catastrophe are always waiting, though rarely visible, for they are concealed behind the carefully constructed screen of the object world. The artist is interested in the deceptive peace of the decades between the two world wars. It was during these years that science and culture reached the peak of their frantic ambitions, almost in the middle of modernity’s cataclysm. In Perilous seat with a rabbit trap. Perilous seat with a pheasant trap (all works 2011), Loboda has carved out of a wooden plank an image of two teenagers sitting comfortably in a pair of lounge chairs. The source of the work is an image found in London’s Geffrye Museum, an institution devoted to the history of British middle-class interiors, and it evokes the paradigm of well-being, embodied by the boys as they recline on the loungers, unaware of any possible danger. Many of Loboda’s main concerns are here at their most literal: the confrontation of the unconscious, the unattainable, and sheer reality; the fate of history; daily life—all seasoned with a broad range of cultural references.

On a more abstract level were three works—Turkish Agate over British drag, Spanish moiré over French Curl, and Polish trocadero over neo Italian—in which Loboda had digitally printed images of various kinds of marble on roughly three-foot-square nylon sheets. Arguably the best works in the show, these light pieces of fabric were spread on the floor in superimposed pairs. Loboda is interested in marble as a symbol of both power and permanence, in counterpoint to the notions of temporality that are a recurrent motif in her work. By the superimposition of the two sheets, as specified in the works’ titles, she ironically evokes a past marked by political tensions that frequently led to military conflict.

Other works bridge language and representation in fruitful connections. This by no means implies that legibility is always explicit. On the contrary, content often slips out, frequently overtly eclipsed by ornament. Each letter in the title of The Messenger (Peril is the absence of any awareness of peril. Like the night before a war) is individually and successively portrayed before the camera in a strangely engaging video work. One would have to avoid being distracted by the sheer attractiveness of the letters in order to grasp its meaning. It’s hard to read, beautiful, and maybe also hideous.

Javier Hontoria