Sofia Quirno: I Went There
February 10 through March 26, 2022
By JONATHAN GOODMAN, March 2022
In a remarkably challenging show, Argentinian painter Sofia Quirno, now based in Brooklyn, is offering a set of paintings and individual sculptures whose inspiration is determined by free play and the associative methods of psychoanalysis. “I Went There,” curated by Agustin Schang, also Argentinian and living in New York, seeks to establish ties in works that suggest realism but do not give way to it. Eight paintings are closely aligned in a row on a level unexpectedly low; they are filled with forms that appear to be identifiable yet resist any easy characterization. The same is true for the sculptures, nicely installed on two multicolored mattresses set on the floor (there are a few free-standing individual sculptures). Schang and Quirno bring together isolated instances of form. These works reflect the quick, untrammeled manner in which thoughts are connected. Thus, Quirno’s work is sophisticated process art, demonstrating her affection for the undetermined: much of her art begins as free sketches done while watching television.
But Quirno’s methods are not without their dangers. If the associations within the artwork become entirely improvised, its meaning can be lost. The artist is illustrating a correlative process, whose connections are intuitive. Isn’t this what happens unconsciously? Seen in this manner, “I Went There” begins to look like an array of dreams. The paintings, shown without space between them, are supported by a narrow shelf. In Soy Una S (2021), we see the effects of elements that jar, refuse to make sense. A reversed S-figure occurs in the painting’s center, which curls like a snake around a pink pole, part of an open structure. The floors and back of its pink poles are white; odd painterly effects occur in the background. Behind, on the left, we encounter a looping red cord and a (painted) plywood panel. On the right, an opening lead to another space, presenting a strange thin white structure with branches.
Nothing in the picture makes sense. It is a chance collection of images, meant to illuminate mental processes. This happens regularly in the paintings. For example, in Looks a Little Exclusive (2021), the organization and attendant parts of the painting are so distantly connected as to seem abstract. Yet the elements look like they possess identifiable meaning. A dark green mass tops the picture, underneath which a black mass with a jagged edge occurs. Below is a two-part gray curved form, slightly industrial and surrounding what looks like a brain; an eye occurs in front of the gray form, as if it were watching the viewer watch it. The bottom half is filled with inchoate forms that are white, off-white, and tan; on the left, a dark gray passage is seen, and at the bottom, a green block overlapped by a small blue-and-white pattern. This is an anarchic painting, brought together by intuition. Quirno is thus an artist of hidden mythologies.
The show’s other main element are two dark green mattresses supporting a group of objects, some anatomical. Got Wing (2022) is a small paper work that looks like a thin circle, colored a bright blue, with its top sheared off. Give Me the Moon (2022), made of paper, glue and modeling paste, looks like a shield, a moon, a breast. It is wrapped by a strip of paper that begins at the top of the sculpture, curving around its side and lowest point, and extending beyond. Bottoms Up (2022) is a pair of upended buttocks, without legs, made of white paper and cardboard. As an embellishment, a small, dark blue, jagged plane rises from one of the buttocks. Its physical awkwardness denies eroticism. The effect of the sculptures randomly placed on the mattresses is a bit disorienting.
Why would Quirno devote energy to paintings and objects that are difficult to read? Perhaps she is exampling a late or post-surrealism, in which the nonsensical includes the poetic. Her lyricism depends on the indefinite. But there is something else: Quirno wants us to experience the muddle our mind makes of seeing. No one can put together with confidence the implications of her imagery, which nonetheless is composed of conscious decisions. Therefore, our readings reflect our own vision as much as hers—a circumstance celebrating’ individuality. We are walking into the unknown, as the show’s title suggests. Our point of view may even be hidden from ourselves. So Quirno uses fragments that remain fragments, even though they can be made to cohere. The contrast is unsettling but memorable. WM
Jonathan Goodman is a writer in New York who has written for Artcritical, Artery and the Brooklyn Rail among other publications.
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