Arrangements made of everyday materials from DIY superstores have become a frequent sight in exhibitions. At first I interpreted this trend of humble materials as a new enthusiasm for improvisation, or possibly as a sign of resistance to the art market. But these ‘precarious sculptures’ now elicit a different response: the materials induce a certain ecstatic experience, a haptic pathos. Rather than seeking to produce any kind of transcendent meaning, these arrangements – most of them loosely deconstructivist – instead turn materiality outward, creating a theatre of substance as surface, a world of things in themselves.
The same might be said of Luisa Kasalicky’s work. The artist uses industrial products – carpets, sand paper, insulation board, synthetic leather and tiles – but her approach to arranging objects is from a decidedly painterly position. As a result she works with these materials with a far keener eye than many others. Remarking on her painting-derived approach in an interview with Kunstforum in 2011, she said, ‘Just like in a panel painting, the process revolves around background, ground, surface, layers, illusion and composition, as well as the surrounding space that needs to be created in the case of a painting but is already present in the configuration of an installation. These are pictures that are climbing out of the wall.’
Upon entering her exhibition at the Galerie nächst St. Stephan in Vienna, one first encountered a large blue curtain (Intro 2, 2014) that diagonally spans the room. Lines and a few larger shapes are sewn onto it, citing a wall piece from Kasalicky’s exhibition Intro: desiderio at the LENTOS Kunstmuseum Linz last year. From a distance the viewer might have imagined that the fragments are converging into a face, but ultimately they remain abstract slivers. In front of the curtain was Invitrospektive (2014), the exhibition’s titular work: a white pedestal bore a glass cube on top of which a vase held a small green plastic sprig. Behind the curtain, individual spotlights illuminated an assemblage of works. A brass-and-copper rod leant in one corner; to its left hung a silkscreen print (Partitur, 2014) and an oblong painted floral relief (Desiderio: Stuckatur/floral, 2013).
To the right of the relief was a framed gouache study and two pencil drawings followed by a large-scale wall painting combined with framing ceramic forms. The assortment formed a disparate scene: a patchwork of technically and formally varied pieces, further isolated from one another by spotlights. The next room conveyed the opposite impression with three large-format pictures, each hung on separate walls. These works were abstract studies, meticulously rendered in countless layers of tempera, their colour palettes earthy or muted. All three paintings were entitled 1927 (2014). A third room, playing the video loop Intro: desiderio (2014), offered yet another divergent world: the six-minute film shows a dramatic interplay of light and shadow: a spotlight lifted individual objects out of the darkness – a plaster moulding, a relief of flowers, a ragged canvas and a raised hand – as if it were a torch moving through a crime scene. This surreal performance of things, which was filmed at Kasalicky’s LENTOS exhibition last year, is accompanied by beat-driven electronic soundtrack. Some of the objects in the film are recognizable as those in the first exhibition room, although they remain shadowy in the black and white film.
For all the show’s intended disparities, what ultimately held it together was its evocation of the stage: in the showing and concealing of the theatre curtain, the dra-matic use of spotlights and the performativity of the heterogeneous objects. The show, then, was a collage of material epiphanies. There was no other narrative – at least not a clear one.
Translated by Jane Yager