Vienna's Secession opens an exhibition of works by B. Ingrid Olson

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Vienna's Secession opens an exhibition of works by B. Ingrid Olson
B. Ingrid Olson, Elastic X, installation view, Secession 202. Photo: Campos.

VIENNA.- B. Ingrid Olson’s art undertakes an insistent exploration of the question of what it means to see and to be seen. Her sculptural and photographic works are studies of the body and space in interaction with the staging of the gaze and connotations of materiality, gender, and power bound up with it. In her exhibition Elastic XOlson presents a series of new works: a sculptural installation that both responds to and inverts the gallery’s architectural characteristics, small anthropomorphic ceramics, and multidimensional photographic objects. Whether captured with the camera, machine made, or cast in a mold, the artist’s works unerringly represent the perceived interrelations between her own body, the bodies of the beholders, and the architectonic body.

The group of sculptures Reciprocal Fixtures in the first room embodies Olson’s reading of the setting’s specific qualities. The four corner reliefs pick up on the room’s unusual ground plan, which has the shape of a Greek cross, and engraft themselves into it by extending the inward-facing vertices. The expansive lateral walls of the elements both delimit the niches and mark the square at the room’s center, hinting at a distinctive space within the space. The elements themselves function as a kind of stage. The visible structural material of the rear-side walls suggest a technical-functional reality behind the scenes; the interior surfaces of the assembled corners, meanwhile, become the screen on which the drama of the painterly application of crèmewhite color plays out. Like many of Olson’s works, the elements also take the beholder’s presence into account—their dimensions and hanging are carefully tailored to respond to his, her or their body and field of view—making the audience part of the work.

Sculptural considerations and the act of making plastic art are also the point of departure for Olson’s work in photography. Her constructed photographs present wide-ranging illustrations of how she lives, moves, and evolves within the parameters of her atelier. The basic material and key motif of these works is invariably her own body. Although the artist presents herself in her studio, her pictures refuse to be read as self-portraits strictly speaking, instead scrutinizing her body’s interactions with her workplace. Striking a variety of poses before and for the camera, she handles assorted props—glass vessels, papers, adhesive tapes, and found objects—that signal gender-specific or androgynous qualities. Often aiming the camera downward to gaze along her bare or nylon-clad legs, she constructs captivating perspectival lines of sight, extended into the beholder’s space by the acrylic-glass frames. This angle of view, however, turns out to be a kind of optical trap, as mirror reflections and doublings as well as blurring and the orchestration of light and shadows intervene to ambiguate the compositions and fracture the cohesiveness of the space they represent. Working intuitively, Olson avails herself of a wide range of devices and methods—though not, it is worth noting, collage—to synthesize and compact different planes of bodily, visual, and spatial reality in a single pictorial plane. The results of this process are multidimensional pictures that redefine the physical makeup and structure of space. Olson’s self-staging and the refractive structure of her spaces pointedly undermine the voyeurism and libidinal gaze commonly encouraged by the nexus of camera lens and perspective as well as the associated power relations, deflectingattention toward the constructed nature of the photographic image. The fragmentary visual impressions, meanwhile, always also bear witness to the tensions between inward and subjective experience and the subject as pictured by an outside observer. B. Ingrid Olson was born in Denver in 1987 and lives in Chicago.

Curated by Annette Südbeck

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