Encounters Sonia Leimer
July 8—August 19, 2017
Reception: Saturday, July 8, 5–8PM
For her first exhibition at Commonwealth and Council, Sonia Leimer investigates notions of territory, land, and identity. “Encounters” offers micro and macro views of the vehicles and effects of globalization and standardization, with both uncomfortable intimacy and extreme remoteness.
“Pink Lady” (2017) captures the annual Apple Crown ritual, a harvest tradition in which a wooden crown is decorated with apples by the people of Leimer’s hometown, Merano, Italy. Focusing on the adornment of the crown, Leimer highlights the underlying labor, tradition, and collaboration of this agrarian custom, while the subtitles delve into the strange history of the Pink Lady apple, a trademarked hybrid that is heavily regulated, especially in the European Union. The video is shown alongside aluminum devices used for measuring and standardizing apples in the EU, exponentially enlarged from their normal size. This type of tool is also used in the United States and serves to organize harvests into different quality classes.
A vintage postcard showing California orange groves completes the installation—like the apple blossoms of Merano, the image of plentiful orange groves was used as a marketing tool in the service of California boosterism. The citrus industry created the first campaign, advertising the orange as a promise of a land of sunshine, health, and wealth. In addition to the importance of their fruit industries, Merano and California are tied in their shifting identities throughout history. Merano was Austrian territory until the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, whereas California has moved from Native American to Spanish to Mexican to United States ownership; in both cases these shifts have created multi-layered, complex identities for those who live there.
The installation “Iwanowo”(2015) widens the scope of this questioning on land and territory, literally going into space to achieve a new vantage point. Leimer inserts the voice of a female cosmonaut into a found conversation between two Russian men observing Earth from the space station ISS on what they see below them. Leimer’s stand-in reveals the absurdity not only of the men’s conversation, but of our small human attempts to impose order and ownership on land and space. The accompanying I-Beam seats are upholstered using textile design produced in the former Soviet Union.
Receding further, two silkscreens on titanium foil produced by the European Space Agency show craters on Mercury resembling Mickey Mouse, one of the most recognizable forms on earth. Again, this caricature attempts to impose cognition beyond human scale.
Sonia Leimer (b. 1977, Merano, Italy; lives and works in Vienna, Austria) studied architecture at the Technical University of Vienna and the Academy of Fine Art Vienna and taught at the Academy for Art and Photography with Martin Guttmann. From 2007 to 2012, she hosted a radio show entitled “City and the Image”. Leimer has exhibited internationally at Leopold Museum, Vienna; Galerie nächst St. Stephan, Vienna; Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst, Aachen; Barbara Gross Galerie, Munich; Los Angeles Museum of Art (LAMOA); 5th Moscow Biennial; artothek, Cologne; Museion, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Bozen, Italy; MAK Center for Art and Architecture, Los Angeles; Kunstverein Basis, Frankfurt; BAWAG Contemporary, Vienna; Salzburger Kunstverein; and Manifesta 7, Rovereto.