Curated Martin Germann for Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.), Ghent, Belgium. Coordinating curators for the Walker Art Center: Vincenzo de Bellis with Victoria Sung in collaboration with Fionn Meade
S.M.A.K., Ghent November 26, 2016 - February 19, 2017
Walker Art Center September 7, 2017 - February 4, 2018
View of the exhibition Nairy Baghramian: Déformation Professionnelle at S.M.A.K. Ghent, 2016-2017 (Photograph: Timo Ohler)
Over the past two decades, Nairy Baghramian has created sculptures, photographic works, and drawings that explore relationships between architecture and the human body. Her works mark boundaries, transitions, and gaps in the museum, prompting us to consider form and meaning in the context of interior and exterior spaces. Drawing on a multiplicity of references—including dance, theater, design, and fashion—and producing unlikely juxtapositions in material and scale, Baghramian questions and challenges the definition of sculpture.
Déformation Professionnelle offers a new approach to the artist survey, an exhibition format that follows the development of an artist’s career over a period of time. Here, Baghramian has replaced the original invitation to do a retrospective and presents entirely new sculptures that reflect upon and alter her previous bodies of work from 1999 to 2016. Some pieces incorporate rejected ideas or materials, while others explore variations in form. Baghramian is, as she says, “surveying the survey,” pushing the sculptor’s task into new territory with her ever-evolving practice.
The exhibition takes its title from a French phrase often translated as “professional distortion” or “job conditioning,” referring to ways that a person’s worldview can be altered by a chosen vocation. Baghramian uses the show as an opportunity to take apart her own profession. The word deformation can also be applied to form and relates to the basic actions involved in making sculpture, such as shaping, modeling, and casting. Through her playful yet critical take on the notion of a survey exhibition, Baghramian interrogates the conceptual, physical, and social aspects of sculpture-making today.