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Dóra Maurer

June, 2016


Dóra Maurer, Proportions, 1976


She is wearing flared jeans, with a long-sleeved t-shirt. Her name is Dóra Maurer, a Hungarian artist, curator and teacher, but in this work, a film called Proportions (1976), her face is obscured by the repetitious actions of her body. As I stand motionless watching her play, I am as spellbound as I am bored.

First, she rolls out a sheet of white paper and lies on it, her body a ruler, which she uses to draw a black line above her head, cutting the blank space of the paper in two. She folds one side of the paper up to this black line, then folds again and again: from these folds she makes evenly spaced vertical lines in black marker pen, multiplying the original so that we cannot find it amongst the monochrome divisions. She turns the body into a mathematical experiment as she slowly rehearses similar gestures of measurement using feet, hands and arms, before rolling over the paper like a sausage. It is an addictive, analogue choreography that resonates with the ‘found’ movements of Yvonne Rainer.

Proportions encapsulates what I found to be the most infectious message of ‘6 out of 5’: Maurer makes the conceptual corporeal. Curated by Katherine Kostyál, the exhibition stresses the physicality of the conceptual photograph, painting, drawing or film. Even when no body is visible, as in the frottaged and folded Hidden Structures 1-6 (1977–80), the trace of its performative movements are felt.

Forming a central part of this exhibition are the artist’s abstract paintings that emerge from the wall by hidden frames: works such as Stage 2 (2016), a new installation, as well as the ‘Overlappings’ and ‘IXEK’ series made over the course of the 2000s. The works’ curved forms suggest three-dimensional folds by using colours that feign transparency. These paintings appear to move, enlarge and retract with the movement of the viewer. In Overlappings 33 (2006), an undulating grid drawn in graphite becomes the two-dimensional surround for a sculptural painting. Maurer is nowhere to be seen, but I can imagine her dancing to draw, her body the ‘hidden structure’.

With its colourful pyramids as spatial markers, the installation Lares et Penates (2016) by Maurer’s husband Tibor Gáyor, concurrently on show at Carl Kostyál and curated by Maurer as a resurrection of a 2003 work, implies a shared interest in chromatic concepts. With its Latin title alluding to the gods and the goods of a Roman household, Gáyor’s installation is confined to one room, exaggerating its allusions to domestic intimacy and embodiment. Maurer’s colour paintings are similarly embodied in the ways they intimate the performativity of bodily gesture.

And yet, I found Maurer’s colour paintings more monotonous than the monochrome photographic works that appropriate monotony as play: works such as Reversible and Changeable Phases of Movements (1972), with its feathered swatches of handwriting suggesting bodily trace, and Seven Turns (1977–78), in which the artist reveals the open-ended multiplicity of the self-portrait across six photographic prints. Beginning with an image of her holding a square of white card, her face abstracted to a triangle and her hands like two bodily props: this image is then held by the artist in the next photograph at an angle of 45 degrees, a format repeated five times over. The result is a kaleidoscopic accumulation of corporeal fragments. As in Lisa Steele’s 1974 video A Very Personal Story, in which the artist narrates an autobiographical event from behind obstructing hands, Maurer blurs her personal story (of a self-portrait) with her teasing, twisting actions, in which the corporeal becomes a photographic game in perspective and artifice. It is a tantalizing mix of exposure and disguise: as the artist revolves her self-portrait, her face, the one I could not and cannot see, becomes a fragmented conceit of pictorial parts.

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