Zurich

View of “Mélanie Matranga,” 2015.

View of “Mélanie Matranga,” 2015.

Mélanie Matranga

Karma International

View of “Mélanie Matranga,” 2015.

The most conspicuous part of Mélanie Matranga’s exhibition “A perspective, somehow,” was a no-show: the Internet. While her aim seems to have been to visualize an atmosphere of contemporary urban artistic domesticity, that defining force had been left out. Its traces were present only in the artist’s sundry iTunes playlist emanating from a pair of considerably scaled-up globular rice-paper lampshades. Titled complex or complicated, 2015, they actually served as enormous speakers, playing back what sounded like a Starbucks mix—generic, if mildly uplifting, unlike the rest of the show, in which notions of reclusion, neglect, and the vicissitudes of social entanglements were vaguely implied by plenty of unplugged black power cables aimlessly snaking through a desolate environment drenched in pasty hues. Even the carpet covering the entire gallery floor was perfectly uninviting, while a provisional sleeping arrangement in a monochrome alabaster tone—titled straight, overwhelmed, 2015—had been rendered altogether inhospitable by being treated with a hardened coat of vinyl glue.

Punctuating this warped interior were Matranga’s overreacted chairs, 2014, which exhibit her skill at gutting and deforming both the plagiarized inventory of IKEA and its modernist prototypes, so sought after on eBay. The silicone-resin covers of these tubular-steel-frame butterfly chairs are riddled with unemptied plastic coffee cups, their stagnant oily contents further accessorized in one case with a cigarette butt. Too many late nights out, or in? Accordingly, the art on view here evoked a nascent yet already ossified state of anemic discomfort, mirrored in the flat-screen TV showing a looping scene from the 2007 movie Frownland by Ronald Bronstein, auteur of the urban self-alienation genre. At the same time, the transmuted furniture on display resembled the props previously featured in the black-and-white Web series From A to B through E, a work Matranga produced to fulfill the commission she received as part of the Frieze Artist Award in London last year. The series’ handsome couple, in a nod to Godard’s Masculin Féminin (1966), performs a jumpy dialogue of economic and romantic angst while seemingly squatting on the fair’s premises—surely the last place on earth to resolve any of these existential issues when you should be focusing on the art of the professional casual chat and looking good.

In contrast to this low-grade assemblage, the large and rather beautiful suspended fabric pieces each titled emotional not sentimental, 2015, looked more conservatively hand-finished and precious, psycho-domestic sculpture less in the vein of Robert Gober than in that of Rachel Whiteread. To produce this work, Matranga took doors belonging to friends and her assistant and covered them with silicone backed by fabric that she then peeled off. The resulting pallid casts, hanging like room dividers, register not only rust-golden shreds of faux wood and powder-blue floral veneers but unheimlich Freudian impressions of keyholes and locks. Neither especially emotional nor sentimental, they were above all decorative and neatly installed. Asked in an interview to expand on her previous work, the artist responded: “These systems, attended by 300 cigarettes accompanied by 200 coffees and a few drinks shared to celebrate the email that finds you well, all of this creates a hazy mass that is simple in appearance, complex and usually complicated.” And this exhibition certainly conveyed the suave fatigue expressed therein. In Matranga’s portrait of the artist as a young urbanite perfectly sensible to the professional art world, the presumably deliberate deficiency lies not in the premature surrender to its protocols but in the subtly suffocating civility with which this system is addressed.

Daniel Horn