Eva Petrič: Recycling Earthlings
June 1 through June 26, 2022
By JONATHAN GOODMAN, June 2022
Eva Petrič is a multimedia artist who is based in New York, Vienna, and Ljubljana (Slovenia), where she was born, Her show, “Recycling Earthlings,” on exhibit at Mizuma & Kips on the edge of Chinatown, is her first at the gallery. The title of the exhibition, according to the artist, refers to the interconnectedness of life, ranging from people to bacteria, in a common web. Petrič sees her smallest piece, Earthling Tattoo Seal, a cube 1 cubic centimeter in size, now navigating space in an international space station, as a totem indicative of our shared existence. In this sense, we are all standing on common ground, joined even on a cellular level. The show evidences human concern; the artist wants to help the astronauts with difficulties in homesickness and isolation above earth. In the gallery fully occupied by sculpture, flat work, and small installations, Petrič presents a visual environment whose multiple surfaces and volumes develop an extended metaphor: the idea that cultural production can indicate the very human need to join forces so as to bridge differences between states of biological existence. Petrič, always an artist of invention, has created a complex scenario, in which the idea of a common ground is suggested rather than directly declared.
The result, a combination of multimedia art, the conceptual bridging of different species, and, regularly, recycled materials, is fascinating in its illustration of life’s myriad possibilities. Perhaps the idea of the otherworldly existence of space, suggested in the title by the word “Earthlings,” acts as a physical and metaphysical support for the show. Petrič's recycled materials, which include used lace, doilies, and Plexiglas, serve as the components of a broad array of objects: photography, sculpture, and textile work. Her range of activities is broad; she even did a short performance opening night. The space is filled with imagery; as viewers enter the gallery, they are met with a very large circular doily titled World Embryo (2022), composed of smaller circular pieces in tan and white placed within its boundaries. The work serves not only as a metaphor for shared activity; the doily is a significant element of Petrič art. Another large piece of lace, with a large hole in its center, was hung midway through the gallery, at a height most could walk under easily.
The artist’s mixed-media sculpture Wave (2018) consists of a strip of transparent black material that begins on the floor and moves up the wall. Three flat figures, one on top of the strip on the floor and the other two set a good deal above on the wall, exhibit bodies that exist as enlarged lace, with regular patterns cut from the paper. They might be swimming in the face of a cresting wave. It is a beautiful work, emphasizing Petrič's ability to find lyricism through materials. Petrič's flat work, The Last Supper (2022), consists of 12 vertical bands, ranging in color from mauve, orange, light and dark blue, white, and black, placed at slightly different heights on the wall. Three of the bands have easily visible drawings of humanoid creatures with long torsos but no legs; the figures are made more complicated by abstract designs occurring within their chest. One sees in the work the artist’s wish to rework one of the most powerful devotional images in Western culture with embellishments, not quite human, from outer space. Since Petrič comes from Slovenia, Christian in its beliefs, it might be a personal statement; or it might also be a merger of old and new outlooks, brought together by a common need.
The final image to be discussed, Earthling (2019), a print on polycarbonate, is 160 cm tall. It is a female figure, white on the left and black on the right, pierced with regular arrangements of circular openings. Overall, the figure imitates a doily pattern despite the outline of its human body. A Lucite support holds the figure up. In this piece, the abstract patterns decorate and also intensify our experience of the generalized female body. Petrič often works with outlines and silhouettes, whose overall design belongs both to the abstract and the figurative. Perhaps this description could be extended to the entire show, which intends to convey a shared, very human realism through work that is often not very human at all. Petrič, very gifted, belongs to an international group of artists who make good use of New York’s wayward energies. Her situation, enabling her to move from studio to studio in three countries, helps her establish a broad range of imagery. Thus, Petrič's eclecticism is quite a strength. it is clear that she is in command of her theme and her materials. 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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