“Crumple” Curated by Emily Watlington at VIN VIN, Vienna
“Crumple” brings together art objects concerned with the hybrid space between fragility and permanence. The works mine humble materials, be they fragile, quotidian, or provisional. All exude a certain vulnerability, and even humility, yet nonetheless, all are material objects.
Likening the humbleness of their materials to that of their message, the works make principled points without preaching, or avoid grand statements altogether. Some of the artists—such as Elaine Cameron-Weir (b. 1985, Canadian) and Maria Bartuszová (1936–1996, Slovak)— emphasize their work’s materiality, without endeavoring to transcend it. In her 2019 wall piece, as elsewhere in her work, Cameron-Weir emphasizes the hybrid delicacy and durability of industrial and functional objects: in this case, laboratory lattices and parachute harnesses. Bartuszová sculpts using plaster: she favored the material’s provisional connotations. The stacked sections comprising Untitled (1968–9) exude simultaneous precarity and sturdiness.
On the other end of the spectrum, Lin May Saeed’s (b. 1973, Iraqi-German) sculpture and relief comment on human-animal relations. Bilal (Pyramid) (2014) is based on a visit to Egypt, where the artist saw many stray dogs. Saeed’s chosen material—styrofoam—is prone to crumbling, yet also rather permanent: it does not biodegrade. The twinned pitiful and attractive qualities of Saeed’s styrofoam mimic the way one often perceives stray dogs, for whom the artist seeks to evoke empathy. Her strategy differs starkly from that of wagging fingers at human perpetrators, yet the live plants placed atop the structure gently remind us that all species are part of one ecosystem and are interdependent. Similarly, her styrofoam relief Hammar Marshes (2015) reflects on the dehydration of Iraqi marshlands—likely the site of the Garden of Eden—due to climate change. Even this sacred site is vulnerable. Nature is also found in Erika Verzutti’s (b. 1971, Brazillian) wall relief and Trevor Shimizu’s (b. 1978, American) two paintings. Verzutti deeply reveres natural beauty, and her practice is driven by the question: why does nature make certain things beautiful, even when it serves no obvious evolutionary function? For Dieta (2018), she cast bananas—which are abundant in her native Brazil—using papier-mâché, creating one-to-one copies of nature rather than endeavoring to subsume or outdo it. Similarly, Shimizu paints animals and mushrooms, but eschews the trope of sublime beauty common to landscape painting. He also does not attempt to “master” his medium. In Pigs, Horses, Birds (2016), he leaves the canvas unstretched, while the canvas for Shrooms 1 (2017) is small and most of its surface unpainted. It is a pleasant coincidence that crumple and humble rhyme imperfectly.
At VIN VIN, Vienna
until 26 September 2020