Roman Li’ka: ‘Nu Balance’ at Rod Barton Gallery
Review by Gloriana Riggioni
‘This is the End’ is the first of a series of consecutive installations at Rod Barton gallery by German-born artist Roman Li’ka. Due to be followed by ‘These are not Coffee Table Books’ and ‘The Nowness of Now,’ the three comprise his latest presentation, ‘Nu Balance’: a visual essay whose aim is to lay bare the shallow nature of a tired era in art. Six pieces line the walls and floor of the relatively small room. The mixed media objects transform on closer scrutiny, to reveal six different trompe l’oeil effects and an even starker line up than originally perceived.
The grey surface of what appears to be thickly embossed paper and collage is revealed to be simply a large print of several blown up clippings, which give the impression of having been rather extravagantly treated with the ‘embossed’ filter in Photoshop. Opposite this, the thick, crumpled silver mesh that covers a black canvas turns out to be nothing more than a cleverly stamped pattern; while to its left, the shine is taken off a richly textured black and white piece when its vivid highlights and deep shadows withdraw into their 2D forms after inspection. Leaping out of a grey background, a box that seems to possess a light of its own confesses finally to be just some neon orange fabric stretched over a plane, placed at an angle from the wall.
These ‘hidden shallows’ of the work seem quite deliberately disposed to revealing themselves to the viewer, and one glance at the newspaper clippings that form an intrinsic part of the surface of most of the pieces leaves no doubt as to what this refers to. Headlines such as ‘Life After Wall Street’ are juxtaposed with reports of art events, such as endurance happenings in Berlin and an advert for a major auction of work by Jean-Michel Basquiat. As part of a series of effects designed to fool the eye into perceiving nonexistent depths, these attest to the shallow complacency and consumerism that forged what we like to call ‘The Postmodern,’ and reveal as nothing more than smoke and mirrors the array of once highly lauded artistic practices that embody it. As if to corroborate this, the slick, black surface of the end piece reflects the room at large, inflating its proportions and the number of avid viewers by two.
Bringing up the rear of the Postmodern times, and still making use of its self-referential language of appropriation and fragmentation, ‘Nu Balance’ seems to reflect a self-sacrificial gesture to place the dead end resolutely in evidence. A formula that refers to an era of affluence and frivolity that has nothing to do with our ‘double dip recession’ and new found modesty, stares quietly out of the pieces, uncovering nothing short of a complete impasse beyond. In negative terms perhaps, but compellingly so, Li’ka’s work seems to convey a clear message: find another way.