Arts exhibit review

Drawing Apart

Blurring the line between observation and perception


Drawing Apart

Katrín Sigurdardóttir

MIT List Visual Arts Center

On display until April 12

Reykjavík artist Katrín Sigurdardóttir’s exhibit on display at the MIT List Visual Arts Center, entitled Drawing Apart, is powerful and agitating, a true treat for MIT’s artistic community.

The opening reception for Sigurdardóttir’s two exhibits was held last Thursday night, with the veteran artist herself in attendance.

Sigurdardóttir’s first exhibit, Ellefu, is an abstraction of her childhood home. Eleven miniatures, ranging up to a few feet in height, are widely spaced and scattered on the stone floor of the gallery,. “Balcony” (2011), “Bedroom, Study” (2015), “Stairway, Hallway” (2012) — they’re all just simple white plaster on frames of basswood, constructed with exquisite detail. You’d almost think it’s architecture, not sculpture. But the exhibit as a whole evokes a ghostly sensation of memory and nostalgia, and you might, for a moment, cross the line between observation and perception, between vision and experience. The anonymity of each piece contributes to the conceptual nature of the work. Each sculpture is nondescript, making each fragment almost float in your consciousness.

More haunting is the artist’s second exhibit, Unbuilt Residences in Reykjavík, (1925-1930). Sigurdardóttir takes nearly century-old unrealized house plans from city archives and constructs miniature models with various materials like lacquered concrete, papier-mache, and wood. She then destroys them by fire or the force of gravity, and reconstructs the remains over a fragile wooden frame. Of “Unbuilt 6 — Dentist Hallur Hallsson Residence,” there’s almost nothing left: a few ragged, ashen pieces of burnt paper, the survivors, cover patches of the intricate frame. The destruction and decay is fascinating and disturbing, evoking unease in every observer.

Sigurdardóttir is no newcomer to these architectural and cartographic works of art. A native of Reykjavík, she’s had solo exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia as well as permanent large-scale works at The Reykjavík Art Museum. She plays with your perception of scale and form, combining the symmetry of conventional architecture and her characteristic jagged style. Occasionally her large-scale works will incorporate the viewers, who, upon interacting with the sculpture, become part of the object on view.

Drawing Apart is on display at the List Center until April 12, and Sigurdardóttir’s next solo exhibition will be at the Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art in London.