Martin Chramosta at Künstlerhaus Palais Thurn und Taxis / Bregenz

Miraggio, Martin Chramosta

1 October - 13 November 2022

Künstlerhaus Palais Thurn und Taxis, 
Bregenz, Gallusstrasse 10a

The medallion is commonly understood as a piece of jewelry set in a round or oval shape, as a talisman and amulet. It carries emblems, inscriptions, initials and coats of arms as well as images of beloved persons and mythical representations. Hung around the neck or pinned to clothing, its owner wears it on and with him/her/them.

As a stylistic element, the medallion also appears in architecture, interior design and decorative arts. As a decorative field or applique on facades, the medallion has a representative function. It functions as a mediator and communicator between the inside and the outside and allows an attribution emancipated from the flatness of the facade, which refers to the content, the use or the ownership of the building as well as the status of its inhabitants. The medal, belonging to numismatics, is inscribed with its representative meaning. The metal piece with the character of a coin, freed from its function as a means of payment, is generally awarded as a distinction of honor and merit to the respective dignitaries. Medal and medallion are connected by a close etymological and morphological relationship as well as similarity in dimension and materiality, and yet the relationship between the public and the private, the representative and the personal can be determined on the basis of their distinction.

Martin Chramosta's groups of works provide an occasion to take a new look at this very proportionality. The motifs of a large number of small sculptures, which are either mounted directly on the wall or set in superstructures with suggestive modularity, refer, for example, to visual impulses of ancient monumental buildings and mythological settings, but also to found objects of everyday life and remnants of artistic practice. These impulses come together in the supposed triviality of their representation, becoming compositions that in their directness sometimes recall the decorative flamboyance of the 1950s. In Chramosta's form of representation lies a leverage that raises the question of the mutual interaction between abstraction as a (stylistic) phenomenon and aesthetics of decorative arts and crafts. The resulting undogmatic immediacy of the works enables viewers to approach the narrative strands and personal references inherent in them. Thus, the works gathered in this exhibition can also be read in their interplay as a diary or personal travelogue of a stay in Rome. The synergy of the "public" and the "private" is also inherent in the artistic work itself and the position of artists in society.

The materials, mostly left raw, such as clay and steel, are processed in production methods that are in part reminiscent of the techniques used to make jewelry, such as setting precious stones in gold or silver. Fabrication is also used to negotiate the status of the works in the exhibition space and their environment. Thus, many of Chramosta's works bear equal parts the attributes of set pieces of everyday life and urban space (e.g. fences and gates) as well as traits of decidedly classical art forms. It seems as if the mostly artisanal production methods balance the poles between item and object, turning quotations into imitations and, conversely, imitations into quotations. Decor as a design element also takes on a mediating role here.

In the case of the cylindrical test holes that spread out on the floors of the two mirrored rooms on the upper floor, fabrication has been outsourced and is, as it were, preceded. As found objects of public space, they link in a way to the title of the exhibition. "Miraggio" in Italian denotes a mirage. The artist thus refers to illusory landscapes and architectures, such as those created in pleasure gardens of the 18th century, but also found in the abandoned parts of the zoo of Rome, as shown in the titular video "Miraggio." In this context, then, the test drillings can be understood as an interrogation of the materialities of public space, but even more as an interrogation of realities. 

Lukas Maria Kaufmann