Continuing her experimentation with spatial arrangement and irreverent institutional takeovers, Anne Imhof has transformed the uptown gallery space of Galerie Buchholz for her new exhibition, Avatar. A simulacra of an institution of learning, the exhibition plunges the viewer into an alternate universe that embodies the industrialized cut-and-paste production of knowledge and identity. The exhibit an avatar for these spaces of socialization, and a representation of the avatars people adopt while navigating them. Presenting physical signifiers in opposition to surreal juxtapositions of other works, the show explores the role of space in the production of power, sites of cultural socialization, and its interrelations to social constructs.
Rows of gray metal lockers run along the entirety of the gallery’s walls, with lockers protruding into the space to create a labyrinthine effect. Labyrinths are a familiar motif in Imhof’s work — for her Natures Mortes show in Paris last year, she partitioned the cavernous downstairs gallery of the Palais de Tokyo with tall glass plinths to create a disorienting effect, a cityscape built within a museum. For Avatar, Imhof placed a single cinder block into each of the lockers, a metaphor for the weight of our past selves. Hanging behind and on the lockers are her industrial-grade lacquer paintings from the Gradient and Scratch series, amplifying the sense of angst and the desperate desire to claw out of one’s skin.
The effect of the exhibition is one of opening a time capsule and unlocking forgotten memories of youth. Much in the same way that the artist’s show in Venice explored the gaze in its relation to space and bodies, here she allows the attendees to once again step into the foreground. At the opening, the atmosphere was reminiscent of a high school, with people clustered in small groups—this being a wholly Imhofian school of course, dark and minimalist, where broody misfits are the stars of the show.
Avatar is on view from May 19th until July 2, 2022
Anne Imhof: Avatar [Exhibition View]