Growing Pains: Klára Hosnedlová's GROWTH at Kunsthalle Basel (09. Feb 2024 – 20. Mai 2024), Exhibition Review

Aïcha Revellat, February 2024, 5 min. reading time

Light gray, square concrete slabs, as we know them from front gardens, cover the venerable herringbone parquet floor of the ground floor of the Kunsthalle. For Klára Hosnedlová (*1990), according to the exhibition text, the flooring has a different connotation: In the former Eastern Bloc, where she grew up, they were a constant present in public spaces. Several slabs are missing at various points, exposing the substrate of gravel and earth. Small puddles of water have formed in the porous ground material; a butterfly, as if frozen in time, sits in one spot. The uncertainty about whether visitors are allowed to enter the installation on the floor, which is not listed as a work, is quickly dispelled. This sets it apart from Carl Andre's 10x10 Altstadt Square (1967) at the neighboring Kunstmuseum Basel. Surrounded by Minimal Art sculptures by Jasper Johns, Sol LeWitt, and Charlotte Posenenske, Andres strictly geometrically arranged steel plates in the white cube appear to belong to a sphere that differs from that of the viewers, despite their unpretentious materiality and many visitors do not dare step onto the flat sculpture. Klára Hosnedlová 's floor situation seems less like a foreign body intended to encourage visitors to participate in a specific way. Rather, it transforms the old building architecture of the exhibition spaces so that it becomes part of her immersive installation itself.

Klára Hosnedlová, GROWTH, Installation view,
Photo: Aïcha Revellat.

On the walls hang rocky reliefs with strangely undulating outlines, embedded with colorful, hyper-realistic images. These were hand-stitched by Klára Hosnedlová over months of work, with the templates for the fragmentary images being recordings of performances that were part of her last exhibition To Infinity at Kestner Gesellschaft (Mar. 4 –June 4, 2023). Each work is thus not a satellite but part of a network that grows with each exhibition. “GROWTH”, the title of the exhibition, may also refer to the growth process of images: an ephemeral live performance becomes a documentary series of photos before entering a new temporality as artwork. Fixed in thread and fabric, embedded in the frame-forming stone, their status as images is cemented. Each piece shows fragmentary views of human bodies and looking at the embroideries is like peeking through a crevice in a rock, as if observing figures engaged in an activity not meant for the public eye. The figures appear to be from another time. Sparingly dressed in sand-colored woven garments, they only place lighters and smartphones, with which they manipulate, in the present.

Fig.3 Klára Hosnedlová, Untitled (from the series GROWTH), 2024, Installation view,
Photo: Aïcha Revellat.

Claw-shaped elements made of epoxy resin were imbedded into the organic looking rocks– the latter were actually made out of a mix containing cast glass, stone and mineral dust, resin, and Styrofoam. The color, a reddish-brown, and the smooth surface of the claws also evoke thoughts of worms or maggots that have nested in the material and grown to oversized proportions. In another room, one of the rock-like structures lies directly on the ground. This causes it to lose its relief quality and appear more like a stage set, which, in a sense it is. Like in preceding exhibitions, Hosnedlová had a group of performers act within the installed show. And again, the performance was closed to visitors. Its documented images will grow into the fabric of the next exhibition, weaving it into the fabric that is her artistic concept.

Adding epoxy to the otherwise largely organic and traditional materials is also reminiscent of post-modern artistic practices of women artists who experimented and worked with plastics, the seemingly advanced material, for example Isa Genzke and Eva Hesse. The latter created objects from polyester resin and fiberglass, whose artificial craftsmanship interacted with the organic forms they depicted, allowing the material its own will. The health implications were fatal for Hesse: at only 34 years old, she died of a brain tumor, likely related to the unprotected work with plastics and the vapors they emitted.

Klára Hosnedlová, Untitled (from the series GROWTH), 2024, Installation view,
Photo: Aïcha Revellat.

Hosnedlová's interest in manufacturing processes is also evident in the final room of the exhibition. Here, felted structures grow far above the heads of the visitors, 'to infinity,' as the title of the series implies. The combed cotton and linen yarns were produced in the last operational linen factory in Check Republic, where Hosnédlova was born. The remnants of Stalin's forced industrialization, the breakdown of the Sowjet Union and the transition to capitalism, testifies to a different kind of non-linear growth, one in which the predetermined order and structured workflows break down and merge into an uncontrollable felt.

Hair in braids, net-like clothes, embroideries, linen strings– these different types of threads weave together the works in the exhibition and connect them to previous works by the artist like a series of embroidery portraits of hair in the process of being braided, mounted on ceramic frames (Ponytail Parlour, 2018). Thread and hair are also representative of the interconnectedness of the human body with craftsmanship. Artists like Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith, and Mona Hatoum, to name just a few, play with human hair and its manifold connotations ranging from surreal, eerie, to intimate and erotic in their work. In Hosnedlová's practice, hair is an expression of care: intricately braided, it testifies to interpersonal relationships and care, thus forming a counterpoint to the matted, overgrown formations. These appear more as if they have grown in the absence of human zeal to style their environment.

Hosnedlová's work is often described as post-apocalyptic and inspired by science fiction, as is the case in the exhibition text. If the end of civilization, brought about by climate change or a nuclear catastrophe, is perfectly installed and viewable in a harmonious color scheme in the white cube, we have little to fear– or is Hosnédlova commenting on the way in which even the ultimate catastrophe grows to be an aestheticized event in our collective fantasy? Exiting the exhibition, the latter seems more likely. GROWTH represents Elena Filipovic’s last dance at Kunsthalle Basel. As the new director of the Kunstmuseum just up the hill, here’s hoping that she will approach the position with the same level of care and curiosity.