Vlatka Horvat, Bent Double, 2018, concrete, metal and PVC pipes, foam and PVC tubes, insulation tape. Installation view. Photo: Miluta Flueras.

Vlatka Horvat, Bent Double, 2018, concrete, metal and PVC pipes, foam and PVC tubes, insulation tape. Installation view. Photo: Miluta Flueras.

Vlatka Horvat


The poetic gestures in Vlatka Horvat’s exhibition “Supporting Objects” made visible the traces of the absent artist’s body while responding to the elegant interior of Eastwards Prospectus, a gallery set in a nineteenth-century villa that strikes a sumptuous, bourgeois note far from a white-cube or industrial ambience. The gallery’s three rooms each featured an installation incorporating one or more wooden tables, or parts thereof, many rescued from Bucharest flea markets and bearing marks of their previous use; several had been patched together out of different kinds of wood, witness to alterations or recycling.

Counterpoise Table (all works cited, 2018) delivered a lesson on balance and stability. Six thin wooden planks were placed so that they dangled off one side of a table; resting atop each of them were several objects, including a spool of red and white thread, a found plastic bird, and a series of wooden door stoppers in varying sizes and states of use and discoloration. The equilibrium was so precisely calculated that visitors had to pass with care lest their footfalls destabilize the work.

A similar exploration of precariousness was apparent in the other sculptural works on view on the gallery’s first floor. To Get Over consisted of four wooden sticks that just barely spanned the distance between two wood-and-metal tables. Placed right next to an imposing brown ceramic stove, Wooden Legs presented some table legs with corner sections of the tables from which they had been detached. The way they were piled atop one another on the parquet floor called to mind a game of pick-up sticks, as if Horvat were tempting the viewer to try to extract one of them without ruining the rest of the structure.

The three installations in the basement were even more absurd in their construction, whether made out of concrete, insulation tape, or cardboard. Bent Double, for instance, seemed to be an attempt to imitate the redbrick arcades already existing in the space with curved PVC tubing that was mounted in concrete forms shaped like truncated cones or, in one case, a cast of a tire. The artist seemed to have taken on the role of a general contractor to construct nonutilitarian objects out of stray building materials, but in such a way as to emphasize what is usually left behind: the process of making. The works hinged on the intermediate.

While Horvat’s presence was deliberately not made visible in these works, her body nevertheless seemed to be a guiding force. Sometimes the shape of her body generated a form directly: Along the Way, a numbered version of which was present in each of the gallery’s rooms, was a visual poem made up of the artist’s footprints in black paint. One might have thought of the performative physicality of works by the Gutai group—Kazuo Shiraga, for example, made many paintings with his feet—but not their gestural vehemence. Horvat’s mark-making is, rather, a Zen gesture—the artist’s engraved memory in the space. In a series of color giclée prints titled “Monuments,” she uses her hand as a plinth for various objects, some so insignificant and small that they are hidden in her palm and can’t be seen at all.

Safe, clean, and stylish, the gallery was transformed through Horvat’s hands and visions: The building became a shell that seemed to require rethinking or recomposition, even a sort of regrowth, of its discursive content. The artist’s background in performance gave itself away as the visitor witnessed the after-performance, its mechanisms, and its absurdity. One felt immersed in a suspended process, waiting for the real show. But this was the real show. These fragile situations thus also reflected Horvat’s strong social commitment: Her minimal and conceptual gestures were explorations of the situation of working amid precarity.