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Void Gallery is delighted to present The Shrinking Universe by Eva Rothschild, as part of the Ireland at Venice 2019 National Tour. The Shrinking Universe was the national representation of Ireland at the 58th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia 2019, curated by Mary Cremin. The Shrinking Universe was conceived in pre-pandemic times. Since its presentation in the Venice Biennale 2019 we have seen the world transformed through global lockdowns, restrictions in the movement of people and Brexit. These are complex times we are living in and the issues that this exhibition was addressing in 2019 are still pertinent today; the climate crisis is currently being addressed at 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, and the migrant crisis is at the fore, as we see currently on the border between Poland and Germany. The Shrinking Universe is a direct response to the complexity of our political situation, employing sculpture as a catalyst for exploring how we think about the world and ways this is reflected in materiality. When thinking about this exhibition, the reference images that formed its basis were taken from mass media; images of protestors on walls, soldiers mounting blockades, images of ruins and piles of detritus that reflect on our consumer culture. Drift (2019), a cast concrete wall with a mass of cast cans that push against the wall, directly reflects these scenes as does Amphi (2019) which mimics Styrofoam blocks that reflect material waste and architectural contexts that we often find ourselves in. Rothschild’s references expand into the everyday lived experience while embracing the language of abstraction and contemporary visual culture.
Eva Rothschild’s work is radically inventive and has a deep engagement with the history of modernism and sculptural tradition. The geometrical framings and the sculptural occupancy of space reflect her preoccupation with material presence as her use of color evokes an interest in the field of painting, this can be seen in her piece Princess (2018). This vividly dramatised work makes use of the height of the gallery, highlighting spatiality through geometric forms that often occupies Rothschild’s work; the interiors sections are meticulously painted adding to the dynamism of the piece.
The Shrinking Universe brings together expansive sculptural groups, each with their own concerns and identity, in which disparate forms converse, interrupt and seek to upstage each other. In gallery 2 we encounter a physical barrier coercing and controlling our passage through the exhibition and referencing what Rothschild refers to as the “hazard architecture” that has become a ubiquitous dormant presence in our anxious cities. Once within the exhibition, we are among a multiplicity of making in fabric, steel, resin and bronze. Different scales and formats compete, casting us as spectators of – and active participants in – the whole.
Princess/An Organic Threat, 2019-2021
Princess rises from a base of cast columns, its triangular forms stretching high above the ground and forcing our eyes to trace its precarious and optimistic progression. The sculpture rests on waxed fabric crash mats, demarcating a space of safety around the sculpture, but failing to fully contain it as it meanders beyond its boundaries into the surrounding space. Both Amphi and the truncated columns reference the ruins of past civilizations, while the antic triangular elements of Princess attempt a progressive geometric escape from their earthbound forms.
Spektor is a cast bronze of towering head-like forms, acts as a sentinel or ghostly presence: a watcher by the gates coolly observing the other works.
In Amphi a series of cast polystyrene blocks are pushed together, pockmarked and graffitied; they are reminiscent of a temporary roadblock or barricade. The viewer is invited to engage with this social sculpture, to climb and to sit, to directly encounter the piece and to become both spectator and participant, actively present within the work.
Drift, a wall of cast concrete blocks painted in Rothschild’s signature geometric forms, is architectural and foreboding, its position controlling our entry to the space. Heaped against this wall we find a mass of cast forms hovering between the referential and the abstract, alluding to both geographical forces and the disposable nature of consumable materials.
Photos: Simon Mills