At an initial glance the work of German artist Kitty Kraus (born 1976, lives and works in Berlin) suggests a close affinity with the forms and settings of Minimal Art and Constructivism: elementary forms, a reduced colour palette, the use of everyday prefabricated industrial materials such as glass, neon tubes, light bulbs, adhesive tape, fabric, tar, ink and water. Closer examination reveals, however, that the geometrised and orderly world of these forms is at odds with their arrangements and characterised by fragmentarisation, dissolution, threatened instability, destruction, the loss of control and the supremacy of the forms.
Kitty Kraus cuts suits into rectangles that are laid out in the space as minimalist-seeming floor works or planes linking the floor and wall. Panes of glass arranged at unusual angles lean against each other or against the wall, their interfaces are loosely connected and they penetrate the walls. They are irritating quasi invisible obstacles, bodily obstacles, obstacles reminiscent of the human body and thus trapped in dangerous fragile immobility. Cubes made of mirrors project light displays into the room or burst open due to the heat of a bulb placed inside them; other cubes made of ink-coloured ice melt and leave behind a solitary light bulb in an uncontrolled organic “floor painting”.
The evocation of “bodies” and their disembodiment through geometrisation and disciplining, limitations and demarcations (imposed by the space, the clothing, the physicality of the materials and the right angles) as well as deconstruction of geometrisation are central to the artist’s works. They convey the threatened integrity of the body and the mutilation of both physical and psychological manifestations.
Kitty Kraus's exhibitions are dramatically charged ensembles of an encounter with “bodies”; they are also dramatically charged relationships with the history of geometric art and the geometrisation of our world. As such, her works consistently carry on the already “psychologised” examples of these artistic movements into the present: i.e. Beuys’s questioning of form through the thematicisation of the aggregate state of materials, but also Richard Serra’s Splash works, Blinky Palermo’s use of fabrics and the seam as element of composition, Bruce Nauman’s physical and spatial references and, in particular, his concrete cube of 1968, which smothers a scream, recorded as a continuous loop in a concrete cube and also prompted a response in Isa Genzken’s Weltempfänger (World Receiver) of 1982, whose radio antennae are embedded in a concrete cube. The neon lights and light bulbs in Kitty Kraus's work call to mind the works of Dan Flavin and Felix Gonzales-Torres, both of whom use these materials to refer to death and passing. Kraus's mirror cubes also evoke the memory of Michaelangelo Pistoletto’s Metrocubo d’Infinito of the 1960s: in both works six mirrored panes are combined to form a closed cube. “Piece by piece, as the mirrors merge, the number of images increases within the construction. The moment the final mirror is mounted, the mirrored interior becomes a cube in which all of the visible images disappear” (Pistoletto, 1966). In Kitty Kraus’s work a bulb explodes this infinite reflection of the nothing in the cube interior and exposes construction, materialism and metaphysics to simultaneous failure.
Kunsthalle Zürich thanks: Präsidialdepartement der Stadt Zürich, Luma Stiftung