Moods in the Metaverse
Six women populate the dark blue grid of a Zoom call. They braid their hair or sip soft drinks as their gazes drift sideways, distracted or unamused. In places, they seep into one another. One head drifts onto another’s screen while a dog spans ghostlike across two camera views. Such is the case with the figures in Uuriintuya Dagvasambuu’s “Moods in the Metaverse”: they are technically divided but virtually together.
Dagvasambuu is a practitioner of zurag—a modern school of painting rooted in the 13th-century Mongolian Golden Age, Persian miniatures and Buddhist motifs. In her first solo exhibition in New York City, the artist references a post-pandemic era defined by the erection of literal boundaries on the one hand and their figurative dissolution on the other. Her paintings are lush tableaux where women, pastoral creatures and deities come into contact with internet user interfaces and pandemic paraphernalia, creating a sense of familiarity, disjunction and fantasy.
Her work is flat and vertically stacked, generally bereft of foregrounds and horizons. For example, consider the girl suspended on a backdrop of leaves in Sound Plants (2021), or the sandwiches and tape measures floating on a lattice of clouds in Open 24/7 (2022). In Vaccine: First Dose (2021), a woman holds strings suspending a mirror revealing dense clouds and a bathtub full of flowing water, both of which dangle in an ethereal pink haze. Everything exists on the same plane, without delineation or hierarchy.
These dissolved borders extend beyond spatial cues. Face masks and social-distancing signage are scattered among video chats, USB cables and earphones that exhort constant communication. A woman in traditional flower-etched garb wears noise-canceling headphones while a sheep peers into a webcam. The traditional shoulders the modern, the nomadic lingers alongside the sedentary, and physical barriers induce virtual hyperconnectivity. Far-removed from their natural contexts, the mundane suddenly becomes mythical.
Dreamlike as they may be, these crossovers evoke the surrealism of modern times: a reality where medical technology forays into public spaces and work meetings take place against the intimate background of your living room. Perhaps in a digital realm of porous boundaries, and most certainly in “Moods in the Metaverse,” even the paradoxical can coexist. —Isabella Garces
Uuriintuya Dagvasambuu, Zoom Meeting, 2021. Acrylic on canvas, 55 1/8 x 55 1/8 inches. Image courtesy Sapar Contemporary