Eija-Liisa Ahtila

Klemens Gasser & Tanja Grunert, Inc.

"What would happen if spatial and temporal existence were to lose their structures by being divorced from time with space invading being?"

Mieke Bal poses the question in her in-depth examination of Eija-Liisa Ahtila’s seminal work, The House.  First exhibited as the signature work of Documenta XI (2002), The House has been included in the permanent collections of the Dallas Museum of Art, K21 Dusseldorf, and is currently on exhibit at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.  Peter Schjeldahl of the New Yorker led his overview of Documenta XI with a discussion of Ahtila’s work:

"I kept returning to a marvelous video installation—a digital short story, essentially—by the Finnish artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila.  'The House' is about a pleasant young woman going quietly mad one nightless summer at an old seaside cottage in a forest. ..."  

Ultimately, Schjeldahl concludes, the protagonist of The House arrives at “a place where time and space, and cause and effect, are confounded.”  The impressive cinematography and rich subject matter of The House are redolent with numerous interpretations, and Michael Kimmelman, of the New York Times, praises Ahtila’s achievement, which “defies logic and synopsis.”

In Ahtila’s fourth show at Gasser & Grunert, The House makes its first New York appearance.  This significant work is recontextualized by four additional sculptures by Ahtila.  The four small buildings, or houses, constructed in the style of architectural models, represent psychological potentialities, in which the viewer is invited to participate.  The works are haunting advances on Ahtila’s methodology and deliberation, and signify a critical implication of Ahtila’s vision.  The Plexi House is constructed of plexi, hardboard, and paint; The Shade House, mdf, plywood, and aluminum alloy; The Pool House, aluminum, acrylic sheet, insect net, water; The Tent House, mdf, canvas, ceramic tiles, sand.  Ahtila’s architectural materials, in spite of an apparent architectural reserve, take on a highly individuated presence, and viewers will look on the structures as possible manifestations of human psychologies: even, perhaps, of their own.  In The Tent House, the viewer is invited to raise his/her head into the structure, to become, in tandem, a mind at work, and a mind perceived.  For those unfamiliar with Ahtila, the present exhibition will make an excellent introduction to a meticulous, luminous intelligence; for those who are acquainted with the artist, Ahtila’s sculptural variations will enlarge the implications of a project already fiercely broad in its interpretation.