Trophy

Raymond Pettibon, Sven Sachsalber, Andra Ursuţa

Ramiken
389 Grand Street
New York
Lower East Side
Feb 24th — Apr 2nd

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“Trophy,” a group show of recent work by Raymond Pettibon, Andra Ursuta and Sven Sachsalber at Ramiken, calls to mind something more nefarious than a gilded prize perched upon a shelf. The works on view depict human bodies in raw, vulnerable and moving states, signaling trophies of war—the carnage and display of conquest and pillage.

Raymond Pettibon cut his teeth in Southern California’s punk rock scene illustrating album covers, including Sonic Youth’s “Goo,” and has since been based in New York for decades. His stark paintings of hearts, each ink, acrylic and graphite on large sheets of paper, are free associative, the word “heart” ranging in reference from a sense of belonging to an experimental surgery to the baseball player Jim Ray Hart. One painting on pale yellow paper depicts a red and blue heart with the words “TRANSPLANTED HERE” written in his signature spindly letters. “FROM LIFE, FROM MEMORY,” he writes on No Title (From life, from...), a piece made this year, alongside a strangely moving heart-shaped blotch of translucent red paint, as if blood had dripped on the paper.

Meanwhile, ski-racing suits hang gruesomely from canvases attached to the walls. Made by the Italian artist Sven Sachsalber, who died in 2020 at age 33, these works resemble flayed flesh, their veins and arteries prominent against the bare canvas. The works are autobiographical too: Sachsalber was a promising professional skier. His record-winning runs are still viewable online, suggesting a third resonance of the word “trophy”: the bodily toll exacted even from victors. It’s difficult to say exactly why, but these works reminded me of his 2014 performance at Tate Modern, where he spent 48 hours searching for a needle in a haystack—its sense of mortality and the limits of human capacity and attention are also present here.

Massive photograms on velvet depicting bodies with odd proportions present the least vulnerable figures in the show. Two untitled works (both 2021) by the Romania-born artist Andra Ursuţa resemble x-rays of figures with too-large hands or too-narrow pelvises, that seem to transcribe sweeping circles across thick amber and red-wine backgrounds. Each work in this show is larger than life, but perhaps more than the others, Ursuţa’s also seem exceedingly vulnerable, aching and tragic. —Lisa Yin Zhang

Raymond Pettibon, No Title (Pig heart), 2019. Ink, graphite, and charcoal on paper, 27 x 19 inches.

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