View of “Sofie Thorsen,” 2014. Foreground: Screen 2, 3, 4, 2014. Background: Screens Within Screens/1 (detail), 2014.

View of “Sofie Thorsen,” 2014. Foreground: Screen 2, 3, 4, 2014. Background: Screens Within Screens/1 (detail), 2014.

Sofie Thorsen

Krobath | Wien

View of “Sofie Thorsen,” 2014. Foreground: Screen 2, 3, 4, 2014. Background: Screens Within Screens/1 (detail), 2014.

“Just as axonometric projection eliminates every fixed, unique viewpoint,” writes Yve-Alain Bois in his essay “Metamorphoses of Axonometry” (1981/1983), “so it has been used throughout history in a multiple, contradictory fashion.” Sofie Thorsen’s recent work evokes parallel complexity, exploring axonometry through wall drawings and panels in a series of “Screens Within Screens,” 2014. While this title refers to one specific component of her work on view—meshes of black-line wall drawings executed on three of Krobath’s five walls—it also describes the multiplication and interplay of distinct yet similar perspectives that defined the entire show.

Whether on the walls or discrete panels, Thorsen played here with the builder’s chalk line, a tool conventionally used to plot structure in space with simple precision, and so a fascinating one for axonometric studies. From even a small distance, the black lines in Thorsen’s wall drawings look like openings: cracks or slits in the walls. Only on closer inspection do they divulge their extraordinary texture. The very technique that produces a clear, perfect line also yields an incredibly complex and delicate facture through finger-rubbed peripheries and loose pigment scattered with the release of the taut chalk line.

Axonometry was a revelation for modernist artists such as El Lissitzky because it transformed the way three-dimensional space could be translated onto a two-dimensional ground, placing infinity at the center of geometric projection, rather than at a vanishing point. Thorsen’s wall drawings tentatively articulate such simultaneously receding and approaching spaces, producing the appearance of open latticed volumes on—but also through—the walls. By contrast, her wood panels and works on hardboard layer and interweave densely aligned, overlapping parallel lines. Propped against the gallery’s longest wall, Screen 1, 2014, a narrow wood panel, seemed to interrupt, obscure, and cite in color the wall drawings’ production techniques while rescaling their spatializing strategies. Lines in two rich yellow pigments intercross and then are cropped off at the right edge. These pigments and this edge linked Screen 1 to Screen 2, 3, 4, 2014, three wood panels of the same proportion propped at the other end of the gallery wall in a triptych-like unit of separate parts. As if the physical chalk line used to make them were still in place, the interlacing of the yellow lines threaded the “screens” together, contracting the space between them where the wall drawings inscribed the wall.

Between the panels and the wall drawings emerged an irreconcilable tension, which remained productively unresolved in the composite space of the exhibition. The diptych Malachit, grüne Erde, heliogen Green (Malachite, Green Earth, Heliogen Green), 2014, arrays a sequence of visceral pigments in measured lines that overlap diagonally, and, oblivious to the division of their grounds, suture the panels together. Test, 2013, a tiny pigment-on-wood panel, was hung low to the ground and to one side of a web of wall drawings facing Screen 2, 3, 4. Whereas the wall drawings tugged and tangled with those across the gallery, enmeshing the viewer in a tactile space, Test’s bright lines of malachite and crimson red are cut off by the panel’s right edge. While the wall drawings hover and linger between floor and ceiling, the lines on the panels and the hardboard work Raster (Grid), 2013, all conform abruptly to the quadrangular limits of their grounds. The two black layers of parallel lines in Raster link chromatically and technically to the wall drawings amid which it hangs. But just as a grid is anomalous to axonometry, in these screens within screens, spatial and visual content remain radically inconclusive.

Thorsen’s beautiful lines could proliferate infinitely, yet they were shown at Krobath with inspiring restraint. Peering from outside through either of the gallery’s large windows, viewers could not confront them head-on, as the two large walls facing the street remained decisively empty. It was as if the window itself—an exemplary metaphor for single-point perspective—had been displaced by necessarily oblique and multiple points of view.

Caroline Lillian Schopp