When thinking about Andrea Zittel’s body of work and her exploration into modular structures, the interplay between spatial relations and day to day living come to mind. Her latest exhibition at Andrea Rosen Gallery continues her dialogue between abstraction and representation -- yet levels out the playing field. By abandoning her previous practice of creating three-dimensional sculptural environments, “Fluid Panel State” takes on Zittel’s exploration of assigning meaning and category to objects, but pared down to completely flat states. Aside from dimensionality, the artist has also removed the reference to her own life in this new body of work, instead focusing on the notion of object versus art object -- and the fluidity between. The resulting exhibition has an innate Zittel feel, but lacks the same inspirational power that her modular works command.
Zittel’s work often feels experiential; viewers naturally superimpose themselves into the modular environments or uniforms she creates, relating their own bodies to each piece of work with little effort. But in “Fluid Panel State,” the viewer feels a little lost. A combination of billboard paintings on plywood, hand-woven hung panels, carpet, gouache-on-paper pieces and even a Power Point presentation make up the exhibition. While each relates to the next, the multi media can seem slightly confusing when expecting to navigate through a Zittel experience.
Andrea Zittel, Prototype for Billboard: A-Z Cover Series 2 (Rust and Gold Geometric), 2012, enamel on plywood, 72 5/16 x 145 1/4 x 2 inches; Courtesy of the artist & Andrea Rosen Gallery.
Leaving preconceived notions behind, the work that confronts us in each of the Rosen galleries (including a newly expanded room) is the hand-woven panel series. For the A-Z Cover series, she utilized skilled weavers from around the United States. Zittel assigned Sol Le Witt-like instructions, letting the process determine the outcome of the work made; the completed panels then hung on the wall. Another segment of the Cover Series, in Gold and Black, hang in a three-dimensional box-like row, just touching on Zittel’s earlier work that suggests function. For this striped series, the weavers’ instructions were to switch colors for each day’s weaving session, measuring the work periods through the thickness of each stripe.
Zittel’s exploration of the duality of function is then portrayed in the paintings and gouache on paper that accompany the woven pieces. Each piece portrays the weavings in different states and uses. A girl wears a cover weaving as a poncho in Tatiana With Cover, while three figures snuggle under a striped blanket in Patrick, Lani and Lucas under Cover. Other pieces show the covers folded in various states of gathering, showing that the same panel that can be hung and treated as an art work, can also be taken down and function as clothing or a blanket, among other uses.
The piece that is most successful in communicating this relationship is A-Z Carpet Furniture: Cabin. From afar, the multi-colored piece, displayed on the floor, could have been lifted right out of a carpet showroom. But upon closer inspection, we find ourselves grinning with the detection of Zittel’s cleverness and treatment of function. Designed to be actually used in a cabin that Zittel hopes to buy, the carpet is divided into a floor plan. Referencing her earlier work that reassigns space to specific modular compartments, this piece has the same ideology -- except it moves everything to the floor. A double bed with two pillows in the corner is meant for lounging and sleeping, while a section for the kitchen brings the counter top to the ground. The living room sectional couch is meant to seat multiple guests, who may use the central coffee table for their drinks. Carpet furniture organizes space and addresses the duality of an object in the signature Zittel way.
Andrea Zittel, A-Z Carpet Furniture- Cabin, 2012, nylon carpet, 144 x 192 inches, Edition of 3, 1AP; Courtesy of the artist & Andrea Rosen Gallery.
“Fluid Panel State,” which marks the artist’s tenth show with Andrea Rosen Gallery, successfully communicates the relationship between the functionality of objects, and how they can be transformed simply by hanging them onto a wall. What is lost is the feeling of Zittel’s narration behind each piece, which is what makes her work so engaging. She has famously said that people will not understand her work fully for at least ten years until they see the cycles and shifts of her practice. “Fluid Panel State” feels like the beginning of one of these cycles, that will become fuller as she further delves into this realm through time.
[Image on top: Andrea Zittel, Prototype for Billboard: A-Z Cover Series 1 (Gold and Black Stripes), 2012, enamel on plywood, 36 5/16 x 72 5/16 x 2 inches; Courtesy of the artist & Andrea Rosen Gallery.]