In 2011, Meulensteen presented When Language Goes on Holiday, an exhibition of new work by Tobias Putrih. Rooted in the ideals of high modernism, Putrih's intricate structures conjure notions of the sublime but infuse them with a gentle humor. Building on his interdisciplinary backgroun¬¬d, Putrih pulls from a range of fields—from architecture and structural engineering to social theory. When Language Goes on Holiday features a new body of work by the artist, Apartment, which combines simple modular elements to create complex, quasi-functional structures and spaces. Putrih designed a system of black aluminum panels that connect to one another according to a basic hexagonal grid. They are arranged to form walls, partitions, ceiling sections, furniture elements, and abstract objects. This open-ended system allows for disassembly and reconfiguration, enabling Putrih to fill the gallery in a non-hierarchical manner. The installation incorporates a series of Erik Gunnar Asplund’s drawings of chairs for the Swedish Pavilion in the Paris Exhibition of 1925; they were selected by Putrih from the gallery’s archive. ¬¬¬Putrih cites the hexagonal grid of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hanna-Honeycomb House as well as the architecture and sculpture of Tony Smith as points of departure for his new work, noting the significance of “play with abstract forms, geometry, and modularity” in both of their practices—play in perhaps its most child-like sense. Smith is known to have developed studies for his sculptures by combining paper models of basic polyhedra, often with the assistance of his children. And Wright, Smith’s early mentor, often described Froebel’s Gifts, a famous series of German pedagogical toys that he played with as a child, as a major influence on his design ethos. These specific toys have also made appearances some of Putrih’s earlier work. In drawing from Smith and Wright as precedents, Putrih looks less to their finished forms than to the systems within which their play was possible. Putrih has always characterized his own work as anti-object; he typically uses accessible household materials—from cardboard and plywood to plastic twist-ties—to position his pieces as provisional studies. In Apartment, the material is a refined powder-coated black aluminum, but he maintains the provisional spirit with a kit of parts that emphasizes the potential of permutations over the authority of a complete, autonomous object. In the back gallery is a work from the series Patio(Solaris), which makes use of a system of cardboard tubes and curved plywood connectors that the artist originally devised for a previous work, Solaris (2009). The earlier installation functioned as a small auditorium for screening Deimantas Narkevicius's 2007 film Revisiting Solaris, a reinterpretation of Andrei Tarkovski's seminal 1978 film. For the work’s current iteration at Meulensteen, the system is used to create distinct sculptural objects. Also on view is an elaborate ink drawing from Putrih’s series entitled C, which stems from his ongoing interest into structural entropy and mapping. Tobias Putrih was born in 1972 in Kranj, Slovenia. His work is collected by many leading international institutions including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Musée d’ Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg; Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam; Moderna Galerija Ljubljana, Slovenia; and the Queensland Art Gallery, Australia. In 2007 Putrih represented his home country in the Venice Bienale. The same year the Neuberger Museum of Art mounted a survey exhibition covering the first decade of his work. Other major exhibitions include Psycho Buildings at the Hayward Gallery, Greater New York at PS1, the Galleria Civica Modena (a collaboration with Bangladeshi artist Runa Islam), and Manifesta 2002. Recent projects include architectural installations designed for the Centre Pompidou and the 2010 São Paulo Biennial. Concurrently with the exhibition at Meulensteen, Putrih will show a large-scale work at the Hong Kong Art Fair (May 26 – 29) in a public area sponsored by the fair organizers. Addidtionally, Putrih’s work will be included in the group show Un’Espressione Geografica curated by Francesco Bonami at Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin, Italy (May 19 – November 27) and in a solo exhibition at Galerija Podnar in Berlin (April 30 – June 24). His forthcoming projects include an architectural commission for a community center in Aroyo, Uganda, which will be executed in collaboration with MOS Architects, Buro Happold, and Shelter Wakadogo.
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