Breath Holding Spell
Nairy Baghramian

Solo exhibitions at prestigious institutions all over the world and acquisitions of her works by numerous public and private collections have established Nairy Baghramian as one of the foremost sculptors of her generation. In works that typically takes the (fragmented) human body as its point of departure, she grapples with the fundamental questions of art-making: with the interrelations between production and reception, between picture and frame, between object and pedestal, for example, but also with the use of materials and how the work interacts with the everyday.

Exhibition Breath Holding Spell
Artists Nairy Baghramian
Curator Jeanette Pacher
Venue Secession, Wien
All images Courtesy by the artist and Secession. Photo: Werner Kaligofsky.

In site-responsive installations, sculptures that appear fragile, obviously in need of support, drawings, and photographic works, she takes a stand against the conventional pose of self-confidence, the dominant creative gesture, and its claim to perpetual validity. Her formal idiom, choice of materials, and approach have as much in common with post-minimalism as with conceptual art; the artist harnesses the potential of abstraction to address complex sets of questions and frame a suitable response in terms of aesthetic form, forging what she herself has described as “ambivalent abstraction.” Baghramian’s interventions and sculptures always grow out of an engagement with the architecture, history, social, and institutional context of the exhibition site, though without becoming dependent on it. Gingerly advancing from the periphery, from passages or corridors, toward the center, her works characteristically inscribe themselves in their environment or mark a particular point in it rather than dominating the space.

Her creations for interior as well as exterior settings often consist of multiple elements and disparate materials such as aluminum, glass, pigmented wax, marble, porcelain, cork, polyurethane, and epoxy resin. Organic shapes that are densely packed or imbricated, that buttress, support, or lean on one another, subtly yet unmistakably evince their reliance on one another. Props and clamps resembling prostheses further underscore the objects’ correlation or interdependence; no effort is made to camouflage ostensible defects in the works: “My sculptures are supposed to help articulate the doubt concerning their viability.” This stance lays her works open to challenge and assault, while the auxiliary constructions also suggest their conceptual temporariness and alterability.

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