THAT MATTER CANNOT be destroyed, only redistributed, holds true in the work of Alek O. Her practice is often one of distillation and in which she unsentimentally de-constructs significant objects to create new ones. In a previous work, a brass corkscrew, which has been passed down through four generations of the artist’s family, was recon-stituted into a flat rectangular form of raw material (Corkscrew, 2010). In another piece, a shirt was dismantled and recomposed into an oblique portrait of its former owner (Anna, 2010). Similarly, working in video this time, she edited an entire season of the television programme Colombo, so that the human characters were replaced by a succes-sion of uninhabited sets, scenes and conflated times (Los Angeles 1972-73, 2007). Simpli-fied, dissolved or transmogrified, do her materials remain imbued with the stories and traces of previous functions and past lives? And if so, does registering their imprint constitute a recognition or projection?
For Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca (2011) a woollen bedspread belonging to the artist’s family was unravelled and re-embroidered onto a wooden stretcher. Different from, but predicated by, the original possession, there exists a tension in the resulting abstraction. On the one hand there is ontology: it is and is not a bedspread. On the other there is intimacy: while she outsources formal and structural decisions regarding deep-ly personal materials to a predetermined procedure (a sort of machine or conceptual/ methodical loom), what margin does she retain for preference and serendipity?
A similar question arises in realtion to Tangram n.1 (2011) in which modular triangular pieces of fabric are stretched on the wall in a seemingly variable composition created by the re-articulation of a beach umbrella. And in the tautologically titled Table (2011), a support structure for objects becomes the object of interest itself. Dismantled and reconfigured into an array of compressed shapes, each broken-down element props up another. In these and other works by the artist, materials and procedures are reiter-ated. Pointing to themselves, to each other, to what they used to be, to the relationships they signify and to the associations they conjure up, these alien objects are endowed with a peculiar familiarity.
Chris Fitzpatrick, «A Few Recombinant Layers», from Artissima 18 catalogue, 2011