Kirill Alexandrov: Asymmetry & Vladimir Martirosov: Docile Bodies
On ViewTriumph Gallery
May 28 – July 4, 2021
Not quite ASMR, #oddlysatisfying is a highly specific internet subgenre of image content that tends to evoke a sensation of profound gratification usually derived from a seemingly perfect completion of an action or process. The moniker originated as a subreddit and now forms a community of 5.8 million members, with additional billions of followers across the seven-figure iterations of the hashtag on Instagram, YouTube, et al. The particular attraction of #oddlysatisfying eludes easy description, but it is fundamentally connected to the human predilection for symmetry and closure, like that found in observing the neat lines left by a power-washing hose on the façade of a grimy building, or the lip-smacking success of a domino show executed just right.
Feeling oddly satisfied was an immediate experience I couldn’t shake off in viewing the undulating curves and anfractuous shapes collected in Kirill Alexandrov’s Asymmetry at the Triumph Gallery.
The title here is inadvertently misleading. Despite the fact that the tactical process involved in many of the works’ conception indeed relies on dexterous asymmetry, it is precisely the impression of a perfect cohesion of the symmetrical that leaves one willfully hypnotized by the formal assemblages that allow just enough playroom for completion inside a viewer’s mind.
The latent movement present in all of these sculptures is their key feature and chief accomplishment. This is most explicit in Spiral, Double Cone, and Untitled (all 2002), a trio of slender wooden shapes that, juxtaposed against one another, appear as processual stages of unpeeling of an elongated conic spear. The three hang suspended from the gallery’s ceiling, and their serpentine curves create an impression of graceful rotation encouraged by the absence of frontality or any form of singular perspective. In Confrontation (2019), a pair of aggressively spiked black steel plates is positioned just at the point of unconsummated intersection, while in Couple (2021), the pleasingly sensual intertwining is suggested by the just-interlocking wooden spiral ridges of two skewered shapes. 1996’s Untitled proposes suspended motion more directly with its ceramic brick cube impaled by projectively jutting steel “arrows,” as if just stricken, or else imminently firing out.
Other works are more straightforwardly kinetic. Heda (2007) resembles nothing more than one of Lygia Clark’s aluminum “Bichos” blown up to monstrous scale and motorized in a mesmerizing perpetual motion of spooling and unspooling onto itself.
The show is paired with Vladimir Martirosov’s Docile Bodies, a collection of mechanized structures, the initial impression of which is impossible to divorce the artist’s background as a theater set designer. Staged inside a dramatically painted black gallery, the ambiance recalls an immersive, otherworldly clockpunk (that specific sci-fi aesthetic is namechecked in the press release) environment of monstrous fauna suspended in the uncanny terror of not-quite-living yet not-quite-machinic beings. As such, Flies (2016) is a bouquet of spindly steel rods mounted by a bundle of trace drawings of insects that come alive every several minutes in a violent beating that sets the images into a swarming blur. Jelly-fish (2017), meanwhile, is a trio of brass and copper tentacles straight out of Laloux’s La Planète Sauvage whose semi-hidden miniature motor activates a periodic, eerie trembling. “The history of modern sculpture,” Rosalind Krauss opens her seminal Passages in Modern Sculpture by observing, “is incomplete without discussion of the temporal consequences of a particular arrangement of form. … Meaning is understood to depend on the way that any form of being contains the latent experience of its opposite: simultaneity always containing an implicit experience of sequence.”1 To this point, while the superficial dramaturgy of Maritrosov’s works delays the full appreciation of the kind of temporal game of disclosure of meaning, as well as the elegant exacerbation of representational art’s inherent dependency on its viewer’s collaborative input, that is the works’ true forte.
Gale (2016), for example, is an elaborate fanning construction of delicate ink drawings depicting a bisected ship, waves, and clouds; the periodic activation of the shuffling steel mechanism slowly reveals a deconstructed landscape presented for the imagination’s synthesis. That, in fact, is true of all of Maritrosov’s “docile bodies,” the cascading tiers of bamboo-mounted eye drawings of Wave’s (2014) allegorization of a gaze’s unfolding as much as Needles-2’s (2000) nudging, abstracted suggestion of a porcupine’s bristles.
These two exhibitions showcase the way sculpture functions as a trigger, as a Proustian madeleine—but they do so in a very historically specific way, as any sculpture, or indeed art, is wont to do. In his Real Spaces: World Art History and the Rise of Western Modernism, Renaissance scholar David Summers introduces the idea of a post-formalist art history of surfaces (and structures) that do not simply present, but “provide occasions to present what we desire to face in what we do face, or are able to make in order to face.”2 Leaving the exhibition behind, I couldn’t help returning to that idea, the inescapable exigency that one’s situation and larger visual matrix within the world inevitably structure the particular experience of artistic form’s reception, rendering the transparency of means of Alexandrov and Maritrosov’s constructions into my own Zoom-addled inner #oddlysatisfying. In the end, however, it is the well-executed promise of a form awaiting completion that suspends one in the fruitful space between introspection and observation—oddly satisfied.
- Rosalind E. Krauss, Passages in modern sculpture (New York: Viking Press, 1977), 4-5.
- David Summers, Real Spaces: World Art History and the Rise of Western Modernism (London: Phaidon, 2003), 338.