Dóra Maurer: 6 out of 5

Art Free
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

The conceptual art of the late ’60s and ’70s could be compared to trainspotting. There tends to be lots of numbers, research and earnest brow-furrowing involved, and if you’re into it, it’s fascinating. Of course, that’s a big ‘if’ – and it’s one that hovers over this five-decade survey of the Hungarian artist Dóra Maurer. 

Although she has always worked in Central Europe, Maurer’s stuff from that period bears all the hallmarks of hardcore American conceptualism: the use of mathematics, geometry and logic; the valuing of ideas over visuals. It works to mixed results. There’s a neat little conceit going on in a piece called ‘Seven Twists’, which features a photo of Maurer holding a blank sheet of paper, then another photo of her holding that photo at a 45-degree angle, and so on, and so on. But other pieces feel more like po-faced homework, such as the film ‘Proportions’, which shows the artist making impressions on paper by measuring out her arm span, hand span and foot span. The temptation is to ask: ‘So what?’ 

Luckily, the bulk of the show is made up of wall pieces from the last 20 years. These colourful, elegant sort-of paintings depict three-dimensional things in two-dimensional terms: overlapping planes, grids that warp and taper perspectivally into the distance. Not only are they clever little illusionistic games, they’re actually, you know, fun to look at. And whatever you think of the drier stuff, it collectively charts a half-century of ceaseless experimentation from an artist who turns 79 next week.

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