Andra Ursuta, Soft Power 1, 2013, bedspreads, paint, wood, metal, electric air blower, inflated 94 1/2 x 98 1/2 x 118".

Andra Ursuta, Soft Power 1, 2013, bedspreads, paint, wood, metal, electric air blower, inflated 94 1/2 x 98 1/2 x 118".

Giorgio Andreotta Calò/Andra Ursuta


Andra Ursuta, Soft Power 1, 2013, bedspreads, paint, wood, metal, electric air blower, inflated 94 1/2 x 98 1/2 x 118".

One of the gallery’s rooms was dangerously dark. Only the tapping sound of falling drops of water filled the void, marking time and drawing visitors toward a slightly more illuminated point located just off center in the space: a rectangular hole that looked out onto an abandoned lower floor of the building, which the artist had flooded for this exhibition. The water was so immobile and calm that it mirrored the space, reversing perspectives and drawing the viewer’s eye into a deceptive abyss. Specularity is what connects Giorgio Andreotta Calò’s site-specific environment Untitled (level), 2014, which uncovers a preexisting opening in the floor, to his sculpture Clessidra (Hourglass), 2014, which was made from a cast of a wooden mooring pole that has slowly been eroded by water—a typical element of the Venetian landscape. Both works were, in fact, inspired by the lagoon of Venice, the artist’s birthplace, and both refer to the passage of time, even as their emphasis on time’s fluid and transformative dimensions also conveys a sense of suspension. Reduplicated as a mirror image of itself, Clessidra resembles the device it is named for, one that, more than any other, is a metaphor for the ineluctability of time. The sculpture’s sense of suspended time served as a counterbalance to the thin layer of water in Untitled (level), which, though immobile, could easily have been rippled by undulations, ready to break the perfect abstraction of the image reflected on the surface. The material properties of the sculpture established a dialogue with the immateriality of the environmental intervention, which entrusted perception solely to the sense of sight. The two works created dialogic relationships between suspension and flow, abstraction and figure, tactility and visuality.

While Andreotta Calò’s installation had a distilled and measured compositional orderliness, Andra Ursuta, exhibiting simultaneously in the gallery, manipulated irony and color to reduce symbols of authority. Soft Power 1 and Soft Power 2, both 2013, are shapeless aggregations of patchwork fabrics that unexpectedly swell up, assuming the iconography of the raised fist typical of Soviet imagery, then return to their original state. Wooden poles punctuate the two structures, bringing to mind the precariousness of monuments that have collapsed along with the ideologies they once promoted. In A Worm’s Dream Home 2, 3, and 4, 2013, three small replicas of the same German bunker, softness is again a metaphor for the deflation of historical prerogatives. The models are made from cement, the same material as the original constructions, but Ursuta has poured it into a sagging form, with the result that the miniatures seem like buildings without structure, innocuous and soft. The same fate touches Broken Obelisk, 2013, which sits flopped on a chair, transformed into an anthropomorphic suggestion. Ursuta plays with materials and colors, scale and dimensions, but her parody has the bitter smile of the history it recounts. The title of her exhibition at Peep-Hole, “Fartchitectures,” is explicit in its reference to architecture that “farts”: symbols emptying themselves of content.

Despite their playful and preposterous tone, Ursuta’s works have disturbing nuances: The raised fists can be threatening, the micro- bunkers are lairs, and the reclining obelisk has an ambiguous appearance. In the work of both artists, references to their respective places of origin shine through. Ursuta explicitly extracts the fragmented history of Eastern Europe. Andreotta Calò’s Venetian allusions are more lyrical. But each artist succeeded in establishing a distinctive rhythm for the dialogue between work and viewer.

Alessandra Pioselli

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.