The apparently mummified body of a woman, threatening scythes, models of the artist’s parents’ house, deformed concrete bunkers, inflatable fists made of cloth or anthropomorphic obelisks – the work of Andra Ursuta, who was born in Salonta (Romania) in 1979 and lives in New York, consists primarily of sculptures and installations that take on their unsettling and haunting effect through their dark, sometimes morbid or martial symbolism as well as their allusions to past and present systems of power and violence.
The points of departure for Ursuta’s works are usually provided by personal experiences and memories connected with her Eastern European roots, the cultural codes of Romania and her family history. The artist links these with impressions from the present and with current topics. Images and ideas that have etched themselves into the collective consciousness or into the artist’s own individual consciousness take on a new existence in these works – one that is disconcerting and sometimes disturbing for viewers. At the same time, her works are in no way conceived in terms of provocations; instead, they are full of art historical and cultural historical references. A seemingly uprooted column of wood constructed of rhomboidal elements and featuring a deadly tip stirs memories not only of Constantin Brâncuși’s La colonne sans fin (Endless column), 1918–1938, but also of the brutal atrocities of the Romanian ruler Vlad III – Drăculea, who indulged his taste for execution by impalement in the mid 15th century, during the struggle of resistance against the Ottoman Empire. Through its coating in black rubber, the object entitled Ass to Mouth is additionally provided with sexual connotations, resulting in an oscillation between very different perceptual possibilities.
In Ursuta’s works the exploration of the human psyche and its emotions, yearnings and obsessions as well as fears and nightmares finds an echo that is no less direct than that of her own biography, social role models and cultural conventions.
With Scytheseeing Kölnischer Kunstverein is presenting not only Andra Ursuta’s first institutional solo exhibition in Germany, but also the most comprehensive survey of the artist’s work to be shown to date in Europe: in addition to a group of pieces created specifically for the exhibition, Ursuta is exhibiting a selection of works which make it possible to grasp the development of her artistic body of work in recent years.
Ursuta has recently participated in the 55th Venice Biennale (2013) and group exhibitions at MoMA PS1 (2013) and in New York’s New Museum (2011) as well as through solo exhibitions at Milan’s Peep-Hole (2014) and at Los Angeles’s Hammer Museum (2014).
Tours of the exhibition: 2 July, 5pm, with Moritz Wesseler, and 6 August, 5pm, with Carla Donauer