Alicja Kwade’s first solo exhibition with 303 Gallery inaugurates their new Foster + Partners-designed space, a vaulted and airy expanse that the artist deftly manipulates with her characteristically disorienting, tromp l’oeil installations. The Polish-born, Berlin-based artist challenges perceptual habits by focusing on the breach between an object’s materiality and its visual effects, often utilizing large panes of glass and mirrors in her sculptures to produce moments of unnerving simultaneity. Kwade’s interest in multiplying and manipulating perception seems particularly fitting for an inaugural exhibition in this space, and she makes use of the vaulted gallery to masterful effect.
At the exhibition’s center is a grouping of three large “paravents,” combinations of glass, mirrors, and steel that both reflect and tamper with the appearances of the found objects and their facsimiles embedded throughout. Collectively titled I Rise Again, Changed but the Same, from which the show takes its title, these architectural works give rise to a visual and perceptual maze. In Changed, two nearly identical boulders are positioned in the same manner on either side of a glass wall, insinuating an act of reflection. As one is painted brilliantly silver, however, this illusion is disrupted as the literal and reflected images begin to bleed into one another as one moves around the work. This produces not only a hybrid individual form but also an elusive, simultaneous, and yet solely visual reality where both objects exist together. The resultant tension between the visual and the literal, between what we see and what we think to be true, is acute.
In a similar manner, I Rise Again teases perceptual expectations by examining physical points of transference and contact. The work is comprised of one linear and one curved bronze rod leaning on either side of a mirror, and a curiously bulbous fissure appears to blossom at the point where both rods meet the glass. The surrounding panes reflect images of fragmented straight and curved bronze lines, but it is this indentation that most strongly defies perceptual assumptions. Once these bronze objects have been endowed with the capability to seemingly melt the surface of glass and disrupt its reflective plane, the credibility of physical and visual integrity dissolves.
Kwade also utilizes a series of mirrors along the perimeter of the gallery in Incident (Trait Transference), in which expanses of glass appear to be slowly overtaken by a growth of corten steel. This slow invasion onto the mirror’s surface finds parallel in the visual encroachment on an object’s spatiality as seen in I Rise Again, Changed but the Same, although the opacity of the steel in Incident tinges it with an entropic finality. Nearby, a work titled Reality Zones addresses simultaneity in the temporal sphere. Interlocking rings made of bronze and steel follow the longitudinal outlines of the Earth’s time zones, forming a cascading chain that extends from floor to ceiling. In her act of flattening and combining these geographical expanses, Kwade presents a new model for organizing the metrics of time and space that have been projected onto the globe.
An artist who revels in probing the boundaries of perception, Kwade demonstrates her nimble control over light and glass to defy perceptual expectations and expertly manipulates the untouched and soaring expanses of 303’s new home.
Alicja Kwade: I Rise Again, Changed But The Same at 303 Gallery
May 7- July 14th, 2016
555 W. 21st street, NYC
Writing by Mina Juhn
Photographs © Alicja Kwade, courtesy 303 Gallery, New York.