Wood, plexi, metallic paper, and synthetic leather
156.2 x 198.1 x 111.8 cm
MICHAEL NED HOLTE ON ALICE K├ÂNITZ
Constructed from lightweight, inexpensive materials, K├Ânitz's sculptures have a provision and propositional quality. (In fact, taking into account her recent works such as the 2003 video Untitled (Owl Society) - where four actors wear sculptural masks created by K├Ânitz, and a partition of interlocking circles is used structurally as a transitional device from one shot to the next - one might reasonably suspect that the absurdist narrative is merely a pretext for the objects. Further, since these particular sculptures are oriented toward an event yet happen (or, if all goes according to plan after the Whitney installation, just passed), it is not clear whether they are intended as self-sufficient objects or as placeholders for other ones that - as in the case of the Beverley Hills Freeway-might never be realized. The elegant planar structure of Ghost, for example, suggests a maquette for the modernist architecture of earlier Los Angeles transplants Richard Neutra and R.M. Schindler. Yet the pretzel-like plaster form sitting within it seems a model for some structure operating on another scale, either real or hypothetical-for the freeway system, perhaps, or the much larger "abstract" sculpture to be plopped freeway system in a public park; or, adding a reflexive twist on the objects' ambiguous status, for time, with the past and future diagrammed here as intertwining in space
Regardless of such conundrums or their quasi-functional appearance, it is significant that K├Ânitz's raffle sculptures and poster point outward, beyond the containment of the gallery's architecture, and necessarily disrupt any presumed autonomy of the art object. The site pointed to is, in the case of both artists, surely intended as more of a fluid experience than a quantifiable thing - an experience that is frequently left to the imagination and not always easily identifiable or quarantined as "art". (K├Ânitz provides few specific details about what the trip to the freeway overpass will entail or her exact role in the eventual fulfilment of the prize.)
Yet one could also connect K├Ânitz's freeway project to Tony Smith's well-known account of his road trip on an unfinished stretch of the New Jersey Turnpike, held up in Michael Fried's 1967 essay "Art and Objecthood" as an indictment of art's shift to "theatricality"-from object to "experience" itself, from "presentness" to endlessness. (And, in this vein, one should note that Smith's monolithic black sculptures were often painted plywood placeholders small for more refined projects that were never executed.) In 2001, K├Ânitz made a small maquette of the Glendale overpass, titled Diamanten Autobahn, which proposed an elevator that shuttled from the concrete platform to the sidewalk below. Such a plan, of course, is even less likely to become reality than the ill-fated Beverley Hills Freeway; in this sense, the raffle for the Biennial, seven years later, is a pragmatic solution to draw an audience to the platform (even if it does require trespassing). Together, the three platformlike sculptures and the travel poster refer to a real, semipublic space one can visit, regardless of whether one from interior to exterior, from imaginary to real, from object to experience. Inevitably, most visitors to the Biennial will have experienced the trip as a mental journey rather than as a physical one.
Donut shops anchor mini-malls throughout the greater Los Angeles area. Corner after corner of the city is filled with L-shaped, single-storey stucco buildings, usually housing some combination of donut shop, medical office, 'fast-casual' dining, launderette and/or discount clothing retailer. The names, signs, buildings and interiors of these commercial spaces with their distinctive cantilevered fa├žades are nondescript and purely functional. There is no attempt at imaginative typography or fancy marketing: it is a purely take-it-or-leave-it, service-oriented landscape
Since coming to Los Angeles from Germany nearly ten years ago Alice K├Ânitz has been making sculptures that evoke these practical environs. In her third solo exhibition at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, K├Ânitz incorporated four sculptures that could be proposals for public works', along with maquettes and one fully realized public piece (on view off-site for 24 hours). The works in the exhibition were an exercise for future development, a strictly provisional touch typical of K├Ânitz' work. Simple, spare and unpolished, her objects regurgitate a High Modernist sculptural and architectural language, revealing these bastions of the 20th century as deteriorating and unsustainable.
The centrepiece of K├Ânitz' project was a public sculpture located at 24-hour California Donuts, an eatery located near the junction of 3rd Street and Vermont Avenue, just east of downtown Los Angeles (Public Sculpture Part II, all works 2006). Here she installed a decorative folly consisting of three pillars supporting golden horizontal platforms. (Appropriately the work was originally intended for viewing 24 hours a day but, owing to a misunderstanding with the shop's proprietors, was displayed only briefly.) Although conspicuous, this fragile architectural addition (built of paper and a thin composite-wood board) could hardly have been mistaken as supporting the weight of the overhanging faade. On the far wall of the store's interior K├Ânitz installed, one on top of another, solid golden forms out of which rows of pre-existing dining booths extended. These hexagonal shapes highlighted the otherwise forgettable d'cor: drab and muted walls displaying posters advertising the establishment's caloric delicacies.
In the wooded setting of Alice K├Ânitz's untitled video, "primitive" imagery (geometric masks and props) meets "primitive" facture in a series of three tableaux that recall the mannered staging of early cinema. Collaged from plays by Ionesco and other absurdist masters, the scenarios seem intent on going nowhere.
The video calls attention to its "magical" ability to transform masked actors into bitchy models, costumes into couture, and props into works of art as, despite the idyllic setting, a cast of self-involved "beautiful people" perform a dystopian fable of social inaction. Situated in an adjacent gallery, Circle Sculpture, 2003, is a mod painted partition of open circles with reflective foil surrounding each void. It appears in the video as a prop and as a transition/partition between shots.
The frankly decorative masks are on display too, but they're in the same room as the video, where they serve to heighten the tension between sculpture and prop. (Is a mask supposed to be looked at or through?) Constructed from earthy green and rust orange paper, as well as cardboard, foil, felt, and a few sets of eyeballs lifted from fashion magazines, the masks are kooky yet uncannily familiar, suggesting the ambitions of rainy day craft projects. Performing as sculpture, these props work their peculiar magic.