Donostia–San Sebastián

View of “Katinka Bock,” 2021. Wall, from left: Alex Pompeii, 2021; For your eyes only, parte pelo todo, 2019. Floor: Aal und aal (Eel and Eel), 2021. Photo: Jose Maria Soroa.

View of “Katinka Bock,” 2021. Wall, from left: Alex Pompeii, 2021; For your eyes only, parte pelo todo, 2019. Floor: Aal und aal (Eel and Eel), 2021. Photo: Jose Maria Soroa.

Katinka Bock

The tympanic bone, a concave dome on a whale’s skull, houses the giant mammal’s inner ear. With this relatively small, resonant chamber, whales both maintain their sense of equilibrium and intercept far-off sonic transmissions from across the ocean. Le navigateur (all works cited, 2021), the ceramic centerpiece of Katinka Bock’s exhibition “Segment with unknown radius,” was modeled after this bone’s unusual shape. Dangling in the center of the gallery, it resembled a giant disintegrating bean skewered on a copper rod and doused in a thick glaze of bottle green, the color of algae or sea glass.

Often, the materials in Bock’s sculptures and assisted readymades appear to have once resonated with, catalyzed, or conducted invisible charges. Some bear the indexical markings of these reactions (a sun-bleached tablecloth emulates overexposed film; metal sheets left in seawater form bubble-like oxidization patterns across their surfaces). Others are comparatively anonymous, like orphaned satellites abandoned by their signal. The piece 6 Schwestern, Album 21 (6 Sisters, Album 21) consists of three strings salvaged from a discarded guitar and hung from the wall like errant strands of hair, their desuetude made melancholic by the unknown vastness separating them from their remaining “sisters.” In Aal und Aal (Eel and Eel), a severed length of lighting rod descends from a wall like a roller-coaster track and twists into a sideways loop, atop which lies a thick glass door pane and three elongated ceramic forms. The smooth, torqued bodies of the ceramics, reminiscent of axe handles or of fish swimming against a current, are the natural result of the artist gripping raw clay and repeatedly swinging it downward like a meat cleaver. This gesture rhymes with the glass door, which, according to Bock, once served as the entrance to a butcher shop.

In Warm sculpture (relaxed), a bronze cast of a carp slumps lifelessly over an old radiator. The fish appears dead, yet the work’s title euphemistically suggests it might just be resting, warmed by a phantom current still circulating through the radiator’s disconnected pipes. Only inches away stood For your eyes only (Pasaia), its two perpendicular aluminum sheets forming a kind of metallic backdrop for Warm sculpture (relaxed). In the former, what appear at first to be small rivets or bolts driven into the metal are in fact bronze casts of walnut shells and peach and cherry pits. Bock’s sculptural concern with interior (pit) and exterior (shell) is tinged with a mortal humility and a steely deadpan playfulness.

In “Segment with unknown radius,” Bock reveled in the surprising intimacies that emanate from oblique and surgical abstractions. For Einsicht Bewegt (Insight Moved), she carved a narrow horizontal corridor through parallel walls separating the gallery’s front office, storeroom, and exhibition space, resulting in a single uninterrupted line of sight from the street, past dimly lit crates and bubble-wrapped artworks in storage, to the far end of the gallery. At the show’s opening I bumped into a stranger near the reception desk, and we barely exchanged glances. Moments later, we found ourselves at opposite ends of Bock’s tunnel of negative space, our faces framed perfectly within the layers of glass and drywall separating us, the effect as subtle and precise as a magic trick. We laughed and waved like old friends reunited.