Visitors to Anna K.E.'s exhibition at Simone Subal Gallery last year encountered a wonderfully topsy-turvy presentation. The young New York–based artist, a native of Tbilisi, Georgia, had created a monumental centerpiece for the show. Comprising five large panels of white bathroom tiles mounted on scaffolding, Lucky Weekend (2013) stretched 20 feet diagonally across the narrow gallery. Vibrantly colored ceramic forms in an array of eccentric shapes were affixed to the white tiles. The hybrid construction—part abstract painting, part architectonic barrier—dominated the space, but the work was positioned facing away from the gallery entrance. Upon entering the room, viewers could see only the scaffolding and another sort of posterior view-a video playing nearby depicted the artist in her studio, bent over with her pants pulled down, proudly mooning the camera.
Ambitious in scale yet humorously self-deprecating, the installation is typical of Anna K.E.'s practice. Over the past two years, the prolific 28-year-old has taken over exhibition venues in New York and Europe with similarly integrated displays of video, painting, sculpture and drawing. Her sprawling 2013 installation at Brooklyn's Interstate Projects, I Suppose My Doctor Is Dead, featured a group of large, dynamic abstract paintings that combined elements of Kandinsky and Rothko with freewheeling scribbles. The works were presented on bulky wooden trellises, dividing the space at odd angles. Small objects that could be considered found sculptures—a ping-pong paddle, a stack of work gloves—were resting on some of the wooden supports.
The installation had the feel of a stage set and pointed to the centrality of performance in the artist's work. Anna K.E., who was trained as a ballerina, makes videos in her studio in which she repeatedly enacts absurd movements—propelling herself across the floor using sticks as paddles, for example—that recall both Charlie Chaplin's slapstick and Bruce Nauman's seminal studio exercises from the 1960s. Likewise, the artist choreographs the viewing experience, using her works to define a circuit through architectural space. Yet unlike "participatory" art, Anna K.E.'s work places only gentle demands on her audience, and our willingness to navigate around her jagged forms is rewarded by a new, richer view.
COMING SOON Work by Anna K.E. in the group exhibition "No entrance, no exit," at the Kitchen, New York, Jan. 13–Feb. 21, 2015.