Angelika Loderer’s solo show at Secession is a taut, intimate display in the venue’s upper-level Graphisches Kabinett space. The focal point of the exhibition is a group of eight tall assemblages made with black metal rods – reminiscent of steel rebar, but less regular – placed vertically in triangular and rectangular arrangements (all works Untitled, 2017). Within each of these spindly structures, Loderer has packed mountainous formations of quartz sand in hues of deep ochre, black and beachy beige. Subtle metal undersheets – some flat, some curved, some angled – hold these earthy forms in place, but with their outer surfaces neatly smoothed, they seem to hover. On the floor, dustings of fallen sand create loosely geometric shapes that
shift and evolve over time – ‘drawings’ left to the whims of the material, the environment and visitors’ footsteps.
This on-site material experimentation with the transience and natural bent of materials continues in several accompanying wall works, which, like those shown last year at Salzburger Kunstverein and Gillmeier Rech in Berlin, involve mycelium: the vegetative part of fungus that grows in branch-like filaments. For this series, Loderer places living, expanding colonies of this mycelium between plates of transparent Perspex. One of the larger examples incorporates a blown-up image of an equestrian monument culled from the internet, which is slowly being overtaken by the fungus. Another sees mycelium colonize a web of netting, with soft, organic splotches of white, brown and near-black creating a living work of abstraction. These pieces seem to emit their own moisture and nearly breathe, expanding save for the taut tension with the physical boundaries set in place by the artist.
Loderer’s arresting works tap into that age-old allegorical conflict between nature’s fecundity and the stubborn permanence of manmade objects. But they also set up their own oppositions: between fragility and strength (drifting sand versus tempered metal); between decay and expansion (as her fungus grows, it breaks down other organic structures). I hesitate to evoke the discussions of eco-art and the Anthropecene that so enamored the art world until recently, when issues of climate change and sustainability became overshadowed by a populist agenda that denies their existence, but I am reminded here of their continued relevance. This is, perhaps, how Loderer’s work functions: by subtly revealing what is normally invisible or deemed unimportant. The spores that her works draw to the surface, for instance, are all around us, but rarely do we notice them; the particular sands that she incorporates are ordinarily used in sculptural casting, but are generally discarded after production.
Growing up in close proximity to her family’s foundry, where she continues to work to this day, Loderer was able to experience both the idiosyncrasies of physical matter and the potential of negative and positive form at close quarters. The results of this familiarity make themselves clear at Secession, where the artist is able to address materiality, balance and gesture in a natural, unforced and playful manner, while testing the limits of sculptural form in ways that seem both daring and sure-footed. As she strings viewers along with her mesmerizing structural experiments, she prompts a consideration of not only the absence and presence of space and the stability and transience of objects, but also of living processes, disintegration, and the fluxes that occur in between.
Main image: Angelika Loderer, 2017, installation view. Courtesy: the artist and Secession, Vienna