Signal Gallery

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Sophie Hirsch

The exterior forces that shape art


Brooklyn-based sculptor Sophie Hirsch exudes an energy that would surprise many visitors taking in her current solo show at Signal Gallery in Bushwick. The colors are dark—almost exclusively black, grey, and iridescent blues, and the forms are brooding, monumental, industrial, even ominous. Hirsch is attracted to materials that take on a life of their own—independent of their original conception or intended use. The exhibition’s title, Autokorrekt, was chosen for similar reasons. As Hirsch explains, the autocorrect function on our smart devices often gives new or unintended meaning to what we’re trying to say. As it attempts to predict and correct our thoughts and mistakes, the message is often changed entirely. For the most part, Hirsch worked on the show in solitude, which she explains gave the body of work a chance to become its own entity organically—free from outside critiques or suggestions. In doing so, she allowed the sculptures to correct themselves—yield to the tension, re-adjust, and conform. The dominant materials of Autokorrekt are industrial: acrylic resin, plastics, and silicone—unsurprising choices, as her father owns a plastics company in her hometown of Vienna, Austria. As an artist whose use of materials is so integral to the work, she became fascinated with the rejected and deformed plastic pieces she would find there, to the point of collecting and storing them in her mother’s basement before filling suitcases to bring back to her studio in Greenpoint.
“I like when there’s a point of tension,” Hirsch says of the show, “but it’s not forced.” For these sculptures, she explains, “The material always pushes back.” One of Autokorrekt’s unifying themes is the give-and-take opposition her materials present. In Untitled 4, a PVC pipe bows from the weight of blubbery congealed layers of silicone and bubble wrap. The unexpected heaviness of the flesh-like bubble wrap pulls the taut rubber straps that hold it to the wall. Hirsch carefully maps out the points of contact in two other wall works made of polycarbonate, PVC, contact paper, and rubber straps. The straps hold the piece together exactly as Hirsch intended, bending and molding the otherwise rigid polycarbonate sheets into organic curves. It gives the uneasy impression that it might explode. Untitled 3 is an igneous-looking mountain of acrylic resin—cast from melted layers of plastic pallets found in the aftermath of a fire that inflamed her father’s factory. Firmly planted on a thick concrete platform, the centerpiece of the show has already yielded to the strength of exterior forces. It is the one work that seems to lack the potential for falling, bursting, or crumbling. Condensed to almost half of its original 7-ft height, the piece is the most grounded and an important counterpart to the tense energy of the other works. Hirsch concludes, “It is the heart of the origin of the series.”

Autokorrekt is on view at Signal Gallery until April 26th.

Photography: courtesy of Brendan Burdzinski for NeueJournal