Andra Ursuta, "The Management of Barbarism"
The Romanian artist's work speaks to her country's dark past.
Mon Sep 20 2010
When Father Passed Through Town on Business -- A Dramatization, 2010; Eggshells, resin, hunting arrows, dirt
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5
For her debut New York show, Romanian artist Andra Ursuta both celebrates and denigrates her native culture's morbid bent. In the main room, a bed of broken eggshells, decorated in bright colors and generic folk-art graphics, covers a concrete slab, while black hunting arrows sprout out here and there. The wacky piece is both stunning and puzzling: The oblong shape suggests a sort of burial plot, but the work could easily double as a sly caricature of Eastern European pageantry.
Further afield, a pink, coffin-shaped tent solemnly lies in a corner. Next to it, a group of potatoes are nestled in a crack in the floor, hooked up with wires. These lead to a set of headphones out of which emanates a sometimes rambunctious, sometimes doleful Romanian folk tune. Titled Extinction Kit (Songs to Die For), this three-part piece amounts to both a canny derision of survivalist go-bags and a piercing lament for Romania's traditional music, which is apparently on its deathbed. The macabre theme is rounded out by Breath Hold (Discipline and Vanish), a noose tied to a urethane-cast balloon, and Ass to Mouth, a wooden, rhomboid-carved stake, covered in black rubber. The latter, a riff on Brancusi's Endless Column and Vlad the Impaler (otherwise known as Dracula), is, like the beautifully drafted pen-and-ink drawings in the back room, an artwork that makes more sense once you read the accompanying text.
As it happens, Ursuta's writing on her work conveys an incisive analysis of Romanian culture and history. But it would be better if her art could likewise express the clarity of her thoughts.
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