Burned Against the Rear Fender: Monika Grabuschnigg at Lehmann + Silva

On April 12, Lehmann + Silva opened the first solo show of Austrian artist Monika Grabuschnigg in Portugal. Burned Against the Rear Fender, according to Martin Jackson in the exhibition text, “is a continuation of her [Monika Grabuschnigg’s] research efforts into bodily and cerebral desire”.

The first contact with the exhibition is a work that burns – at the entrance to the gallery we find a ceramic panel with two small flames, hung by iron chains. To the left, on the floor, we see a set of burnt, bent, deformed plastic shoes, which also burn. The use of fire, a living material/unmaterial, intensifies the surrealist aesthetic of the works, which relate to the gallery’s white space, clinically lit, as if they were artefacts of a contemporary Gothic – evidence of a reality incompatible with the present. We sense an intention to cause alienation from reality, as the artist presents her works in a dimension to which they do not seem to belong. There is no attempt to integrate the works into the space, but rather an assumed decontextualisation. This break between the objects exhibited and the exhibition venue underlines the surrealist character of the works.

There is also a group of small ceramic painting pieces. These, by relating to the materiality of the other works, introduce the representation of the human figure. The inclusion of the human dimension in the exhibition, through small painted figures, is a reference to the earliest forms of cave art, to the human need to belong through image, through representation. These figures contrast with the exhibition by their shape, colour and theme, having only their materiality in common with the other pieces. The relationship between the works, between the creation and the creator, between the exhibition of an environment and the exhibition itself, show a balance between the surreal and the real, between a cavernous aesthetic and the warmth of fire, human warmth.

Monika Grabuschnigg, who in 2018 received the Berlin Art Prize, is part of several European collections. She was considered by Artsy magazine one of the 20 women artists responsible for driving contemporary sculpture forward. The exhibition is on view at Lehmann + Silva until May 30.

Phd Student of Philosophy at the Faculty of Philosophy and Social Sciences of the Catholic University of Braga, she has a Master's in Critical Curatorship and Theories of Art by the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Lisbon and a degree in Plastic Arts – Painting by the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Porto. In 2018 she launches the first issue of Dose magazine of which she is co-founder and editor, and in 2020 she founds the studio space for artists o.estúdio in Bonfim, Porto. She currently works as an artist, freelance curator and writer, having already contributed articles to several publications.

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