Anya Kielar: Shadow Box, the artist’s first institutional solo presentation, comprises three newly commissioned shadow box sculptures, hung on a visually striking custom fabric wrapped around the gallery’s walls. These works, her largest to date, mark the first time that the artist has incorporated full figures within the sculptural series she has developed over the past five years, which delves into the portrayal of female subjects through the aesthetic devices of shallow relief.
The artist turns to disparate sources to act as visual guides within her practice, such as early 20th-century fashion plates that featured illustrations of women dressed in the era’s latest styles and functioned as precursors to contemporary fashion magazines; the artist is drawn to the ways in which color and line dramatize the evolving trends from that time. Greco-Roman bas-reliefs and Medieval church carvings provide additional sources of inspiration—not only for the ways in which the body is fit within the confines of an architectural space, but also for the emphasis on emotive postures and hand gestures. Kielar’s work is united by a surrealist undertone that points to artist Hans Bellmer, who arranged handmade dolls into uncanny configurations. Though vastly different in conceptual aim and technical form, Kielar shares a similar interest in animating her sculptures with a sense of mystery and internal life.
The consistent thread through these references is the underlying intent to approach the human body as a vessel that can change shape to meet the cultural tides around it. Kielar is interested in continuing a tradition of distorting and manipulating the female form, in a manner that shows its evolving position within art. She bases her figures on archetypes, such as the Muse or the Amazon, that have lingered through the ages and inspired constant reinterpretation. In focusing on these classic roles, she brings the viewer’s attention to the complex dynamics of strength, beauty, vulnerability, sex, and heroism that have always circulated around female identity. She also opens a larger discussion around the constant expansion of expectations placed on women and their bodies, and the effect that these changes have on their perception of themselves.
The artist compresses the formal distinctions of sculpture and painting by melding aspects of each into a unified field of symbols and dimensionality. In each work, a single female subject is constructed through the arrangement of individual shapes that have been carved from foam and wrapped in a fabric bearing a pattern of the artist’s design. Each section of the subject’s body appears to float within a box that is encased in the same fabric, creating an overall effect of a figure that ripples between abstraction and representation.
About the Artist
Anya Kielar (b. 1978, New York, NY) earned a BFA from The Cooper Union School of Art, New York and an MFA from Columbia University, New York. Kielar has presented solo exhibitions at venues such as Rachel Uffner Gallery, New York; Locust Projects, Miami; Casey Kaplan, New York; and Daniel Reich Gallery, New York. She has also been included in group exhibitions at the Rubell Family Collection, Miami; the Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art, Ursinus College, Collegeville; the FLAG Art Foundation, New York; White Columns, New York; and the Zabludowicz Collection, London, among others. In Fall 2021, Kielar created work for the exhibition Miss Dior - 12 Women Artists, which opened at Ba-tsu Gallery, Tokyo, and traveled to Chateau de la Colle Noire, Montrauroux. Her work can be found in the permanent collections of the Dikeou Collection, Denver; the Christian Dior Art Collection, Paris; the Henry Art Gallery, Seattle; the New Century Art Foundation, Singapore; the Rubell Family Collection, Miami; the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Saratoga Springs; and the Zabludowicz Collection, London. Kielar lives and works in Brooklyn.
Anya Kielar: Shadow Box is curated by Gabriel Florenz with Vivian Chui. Major funding for the exhibition is provided by the Coby Foundation. Additional support is provided by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.