Upon entering the gallery space at Bridget Donahue this month, one is greeted by a peculiar selection of objects. Small-scale, think strips of elastic material are laid up against the walls of the space, or twisted out along the floor. The pieces, with their slight impressions upon the viewer’s perception of space, seems to lend the already raw Chinatown space a look of material temporality, of objects held in momentary sway, as if left behind in between residents.
The pieces, new sculpture by the artist Olga Balema, run through a range of physical iterations, thin elastic bands, at times painted, or suspended above the floor by nails, or elsewhere stapled into the ground and walls. Exploring the impact of the works on the space itself, and on the viewer’s understanding of physical state, they are intriguing interrogations on the language of conceptualism and minimalism. As they show press materials emphasize, they are explorations of liminal states in these historical modes: “the works are definitely reduced, but not minimal. Minimal would deal in absolute terms (tautness, un-tautness etc), not in bizarre numbers like 73, or other such numbers.”
This is an noteworthy point, Balema’s works in the show actually drawing on absolute states, a structural paradox given the material’s elasticity and ability to imply varying states and possibilities outside of concrete positions and absolute figures. The sculptures are themselves truly flexible, having full dynamic existences: rehearsed in the studio, in transit, and performed here in the gallery. Ultimately all legitimate configurations in their own right, their literal points of connection are mostly unchanged in each situation.
Accordingly, Balema’s works emphasize a certain sense of the subjective, the performance of the works as their realization in this particular context, and their material interactions and positions dictated by the artist, and installed in the space according to this particular hanging. Rather than the concrete dimensions of Fred Sandbeck, Balema’s works are notably brave in their willingness to invite the artist’s hand in their presentation, refusing to emphasize merely the material, but an occasionally abject handling of a historical language. Searching for a state where the artist might rejuvenate the static and, at times dogmatic, renderings of spare materials, Balema’s work serves as a fascinating challenge to the viewer.
The show is open through July 26th.
— C. Rhinehart
Olga Balema: Brain Damage [Exhibition Site]