Eva Rothschild has had an impressive career trajectory, with gallery representations in London, Glasgow, Zurich and New York, Rothschild has in a relatively short period of time had exhibitions in the impressive spaces of Tate (Cold Corners, 2009) and The Whitechapel Gallery. In Ireland, Rothschild has shown at The Douglas Hyde Gallery in 2005 and in 2012 was featured in the galleries ‘Paradise’ series where she showed the exquisite resin-soaked afghan rug Felix (2012). Her sculpture Stalker (2004) stole the show in the Irish Museum of Modern Art’s Anniversary ‘Twenty’ exhibition in 2011 and this work is now a part of the IMMA Collection. This month sees a solo exhibition of the artist’s work at the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin.
The use of plastic (or rather Fibreglass; a glass fibre reinforced plastic) in Rothschild’s work means that the surfaces of many of the works though texture-less, are very reflective. Works that incorporate movement (through the addition of a fringe to suspended object) do so in a very literal manner that echoes Op Art. I enjoyed the mandala ribbons and hoops with fringes falling from their frames reminding one of throwing a hoop in the air in the playground; the sculptural knots are also wonderful. And the idea of ‘play’ is evoked again in a video work of children ‘interacting’ with what I hope are replicas of the work in a gallery (they basically trash them). What the video also shows is just how lightweight many of the works are. This video work appears as a stationary eye in the gallery, one incapable of interacting or intervening with that which is playing out in front of it; and this also can be a reference for much of Rothschild’s sculptural work.
Many of the works featured in The Hugh Lane show a delicacy in form and subtlety of balance, a formulation that appears hazardous when one considers how these works have been placed. Elevated works look fragile and serene, as if part of a classical sculpture garden, and yet the manner in which they are elevated (often upon thin steel frames) give them an uneasy vulnerability. The line features heavily here, and works that use line in a manner that accentuates the material are hugely successful as in Snowman (2013) which sits in a framework of suspended bars. This installation is somewhat hindered by the width of the long gallery in the Hugh Lane, although maybe the point is to trip over it – who knows?
The use of line in contemporary art is normally offset by the use of raw material which acts to abstract and deflect any notion of design. Robert Morris’ (whom Rothschild has quoted as an influence) works stoically rejected (and reflected) their situation. The challenge to the space being in the work’s concept rather than its appearance. The material, solid in its austerity, created the political statement: Art is not decoration. The referencing of Constructivism as an influence here is pointed; the artist’s work in many ways seeks to remove and push the terms of abstract sculpture into the realm of design.
Rothschild consistently evades concept in her practice and much of the work featured is difficult to engage with in anything other than a superficial manner. Perhaps the recent trend to philosophise contemporary art means that the un-referenceable becomes the oddity, and ones inability to access a work in this manner makes it difficult; this is in many ways is the most political of statements.
Eva Rothschild’s work can be seen at The Hugh Lane Gallery from 23rd May – 21st September. www.hughlane.ie