New York

Silvia Bächli, Untitled (Nr. 6), 2015, gouache on paper, 40 1/8 × 57 1/8".

Silvia Bächli, Untitled (Nr. 6), 2015, gouache on paper, 40 1/8 × 57 1/8".

Silvia Bächli

Peter Freeman, Inc.

Silvia Bächli, Untitled (Nr. 6), 2015, gouache on paper, 40 1/8 × 57 1/8".

Silvia Bächli has invoked the words of the late Danish poet Inger Christensen several times throughout the past decade, taking inspiration and installation titles from the renowned writer, and even dedicating her presentation for the Swiss Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2009 to her. This exhibition, Bächli’s first in New York in four years, continued the Swiss-born artist’s deliberate, durable engagement with the poet: Its title, “further. evolves,” comes from Christensen’s 1969 masterwork it. Because most of Bächli’s works—like all those that were shown here—are untitled, language seems endowed with special importance. Like line and color, it is something that must be used sparingly and precisely.

In Christensen, Bächli has found a compelling interlocutor, one who was equally rigorous in her attention to form. Both insist upon a set of rules as a way to encourage possibility and freedom: Bächli determines the maximum paper size by the span of her arm, and has tended to restrict her palette to gray and her material to gouache; Christensen shaped her poems according to mathematical systems like the Fibonacci sequence. The more constraining the structure, the more room each finds to play within it.

Although her recent gouache-on-paper drawings were hung throughout the gallery’s two rooms, Bächli’s show was divided conceptually into two sections. In the first, an eleven-part piece offered a grisaille tour of the artist’s work over the past fifteen years. Its components hung chronologically, the work served as a primer for her oeuvre since 2001, familiarizing the viewer with her formal strategies through an inventory of the ways in which she has used line: as vertical stripe, as horizon, as grid, as arc, as smudge, as the barest hint of an arm.

Against this necessary prologue, the eighteen drawings in the central room—all made between 2013 and 2015 and all but one gouache on paper—seem to burst with color and complexity. There is a striking two-meter-high piece with ribbons of earthy pinks, reds, and browns punctuated by a single blue stripe; a seductive Prussian-blue form that tapers gently until it meets a horizontal line of the same color; and a quietly powerful net of blue and brown. (Bächli’s installation is masterful: The fluted pillars and gleaming red fire main that dominate the gallery have never had such a sense of purpose as when they echoed the lines and colors of Bächli’s drawings. Indeed, the presentation as a whole served as a rejoinder to the hyper-flexibility of many of today’s spaces, with their vast columnless spaces and movable walls.)

With similar colors and grids, Bächli’s newest works follow from these but with a substantial complication: Two drawings are, in the artist’s words, “sewn” together, and hung as one piece. She begins with a sequence of vertical lines that zigzag down the page and connect at each joint to form a web of rough diamonds, interrupted occasionally by triangular shapes, delicate aberrations where the lines meet earlier than expected. Bächli then brings the two sheets together along one edge and interlaces them with a third set of lines. The connections are labored and dense, a counterpoint to her work’s regular sparseness, as if she wanted to give shape to the challenge of bringing the pages together. It is an effort reflective of her engagement with Christensen’s poetry, one that resists resolution but insists upon connection, one line at a time.

Rachel Churner