Exceptional Works: Andra Ursuţa | David Zwirner
A grey header graphic with details about a sculpture by Andra Ursuţa, titled Vandal Lust, dated 2011/2022.
A detail from a sculpture by Andra Ursuţa, titled Vandal Lust, dated 2011/2022.
“Launching and failing.… [Vandal Lust] was more about knowing you will fail but going for it anyway.”

Andra Ursuţa

A mixed media installation in two parts by Andra Ursuţa, titled Vandal Lust, dated in 2011 and 2022.

Andra Ursuţa

Vandal Lust, 2011/2022
Wood, urethane resins, cardboard, plaster, synthetic fibers, paint, varnish, hardware, urethane foam, steel, wig, and garments in two (2) parts
Overall dimensions variable
Part one: 144 x 144 x 126 inches (365.8 x 365.8 x 320 cm)
Part two: 9 x 60 x 50 inches (22.9 x 152.4 x 127 cm)

The Romanian-born, New York–based artist Andra Ursuţa’s (b. 1979) inventive sculptural work mines the darker undercurrents of contemporary society. Drawing from memory, art history, and popular culture, the artist merges traditional sculptural processes and new technologies to create evocative sculptures and installations that give new, redemptive form to subjective experience. 

An important early work, Vandal Lust (2011/2022) is a large-scale installation comprising a trebuchet—a medieval siege weapon—and a sculpture depicting the artist as a fallen figure, covered in debris following an attempt to hurl herself out of the space. This work is featured on the occasion of the gallery's presentation at Art Basel Unlimited, 2022.

A sculpture by Andra Ursuta, titled Crush, dated 2011.

Andra Ursuta, Crush, 2011

Andra Ursuta, Crush, 2011

A detail from a sculpture by Andra Ursuta, titled Commerce Exterieur Mondial Sentimental, dated 2012.

Andra Ursuta, Commerce Exterieur Mondial Sentimental, 2012 (detail)

Andra Ursuta, Commerce Exterieur Mondial Sentimental, 2012 (detail)

A sculpture by Andra Ursuta, titled Impersonal Growth, dated 2020.

Andra Ursuta, Impersonal Growth, 2020 (detail)

Andra Ursuta, Impersonal Growth, 2020 (detail)

A sculpture by Andra Ursuta, titled Yoga Don't Help, dated 2021.

Andra Ursuta, Yoga Don't Help, 2021

Andra Ursuta, Yoga Don't Help, 2021

Dressed in a red cardigan and headscarf, the figure in Vandal Lust recalls other sculptures by Ursuţa, who often uses her own image or, as in a number of earlier works, stereotypical images of Eastern European women. “It has something to do with an antiquated idea of art that revolves around self-representation as a ‘window into the soul of the artist,’” she says. “I’m making fun of that by subjecting my own image to cartoonish misfortunes.

An installation view of an exhibition titled Andra Ursuta: Void Fill at David Zwirner, Paris, in 2021.

Installation view, Andra Ursuţa: Void Fill, David Zwirner, Paris, 2021

Installation view, Andra Ursuţa: Void Fill, David Zwirner, Paris, 2021

“[Ursuţa’s narratives] are convincingly bodied forth by a distinctively fractured, somewhat deprived sense of craft. The catapult in particular is cobbled together from scraps of lumber, cardboard, resin and plaster, with straplike lengths of fabric woven with a floral motif left over from a line of peasant-inspired sportswear that the artist once designed. Despite its size and brutishness, this structure also has aspects of delicacy and even miniaturization.”

 

Roberta Smith

A detail from a sculpture by Andra Ursuţa, titled Vandal Lust, dated 2011/2022.

Andra Ursuta, Vandal Lust, 2011/2022 (detail)

Andra Ursuta, Vandal Lust, 2011/2022 (detail)

A detail from a sculpture by Andra Ursuţa, titled Vandal Lust, dated 2011/2022.

Andra Ursuta, Vandal Lust, 2011/2022 (detail)

Andra Ursuta, Vandal Lust, 2011/2022 (detail)

A detail from a sculpture by Andra Ursuţa, titled Vandal Lust, dated 2011/2022.

Andra Ursuta, Vandal Lust, 2011/2022 (detail)

Andra Ursuta, Vandal Lust, 2011/2022 (detail)

A detail from a sculpture by Andra Ursuţa, titled Vandal Lust, dated 2011/2022.

Andra Ursuta, Vandal Lust, 2011/2022 (detail)

Andra Ursuta, Vandal Lust, 2011/2022 (detail)

A detail from a sculpture by Andra Ursuţa, titled Vandal Lust, dated 2011/2022.

Andra Ursuta, Vandal Lust, 2011/2022 (detail)

Andra Ursuta, Vandal Lust, 2011/2022 (detail)

Vandal Lust references The Man Who Flew into Space from His Apartment (1985), an installation by the Soviet-born artist Ilya Kabakov that imagined escaping from a communal Moscow apartment; Kabakov describes his installation as being “about an attempt to get into the other world by your own means.” Whereas Kabakov’s protagonist is nowhere to be seen, Ursuţa’s catapulted figure lies crumpled against the wall.

An installation by Ilya Kabakov, titled The Man Who Flew To Space from His Apartment, dated 1984.

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, The Man Who Flew into Space from His Apartment, 1984. Photo by D. James Dee 1988, NY, Ronald Feldman Gallery. © Ilya & Emilia Kabakov. Courtesy Galerie Brigitte Schenk

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, The Man Who Flew into Space from His Apartment, 1984. Photo by D. James Dee 1988, NY, Ronald Feldman Gallery. © Ilya & Emilia Kabakov. Courtesy Galerie Brigitte Schenk

A detail from a sculpture by Andra Ursuţa, titled Vandal Lust, dated 2011/2022.

Andra Ursuta, Vandal Lust, 2011/2022 (detail)

Andra Ursuta, Vandal Lust, 2011/2022 (detail)

A sculpture by Andra Ursuţa, titled Vandal Lust, dated 2011/2022.

Andra Ursuta, Vandal Lust, 2011/2022 (detail)

Andra Ursuta, Vandal Lust, 2011/2022 (detail)

“It’s about having this grand idea [of escape] you want to realize but don’t know how or don’t have what it takes to make the real thing so you just use whatever is around.… I think that also evokes countless Eastern Europeans that tried to escape their respective communist countries using all these crazy devices built secretly in their sheds.

Andra Ursuţa

A work by Yves Klein, titled Leap into the Void, dated 1960.

Yves Klein, Leap into the Void, 1960. Photo © Harry Shunk and Janos Kender J.Paul Getty Trust. The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles. (2014.R.20). © The Estate of Yves Klein c/o ADAGP, Paris

Yves Klein, Leap into the Void, 1960. Photo © Harry Shunk and Janos Kender J.Paul Getty Trust. The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles. (2014.R.20). © The Estate of Yves Klein c/o ADAGP, Paris

Ursuţa’s “failure to launch” also connects with artists such as Yves Klein and Bas Jan Ader, whose ill-fated voyages and leaps of faith recall the Irish writer Samuel Beckett’s counsel to “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Vandal Lust also questions an individual’s potential to truly be free, particularly those living under oppressive governments in places that have accumulated decades of historical trauma.

A scale photo of a sculpture by Andra Ursuţa, titled Vandal Lust, dated 2011/2022.
“I don’t think of my work as being hopeful—just as Beckett is not a hopeful author. Yet his exercises in despair are still a call to do something.”

Andra Ursuţa

 

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