Tobias Putrih, Connection, 2004
Tobias Putrih's often concept-based work comprises drawings, illustrations, plans, sculptures and intricately designed constructions, which he has referred to as 'intimate, proto-scientific and slightly ironic models'.(1) His work engages with particular aspects of modernist history such as political and social utopianism, modernist architecture, the origins and evolution of cinema and the parallel development of utilitarian constructivism and aestheticism.
Putrih was born in Slovenia in 1972 and grew up in Tito's Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia. After graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts, Ljubljana, in 1997, he moved to West Germany, where he subsequently studied at the prestigious Kunstakademie Dusseldorf in 1997–98. Exhibiting regularly across Europe from the mid 1990s, Putrih came to broader international attention in 2002 with his inclusion in 'Manifesta 4' in Frankfurt. He has lived in New York City since 2004.
Connection 2004 clearly emerges out of these concerns while also paying a kind of homage to a great modernist and utopian project of the twentieth century. Finnish–American architect Eero Saarinen completed a project known as the Gateway Arch in St Louis, Missouri, in the 1960s, and in a 2007 publication by Galerija Gregor Podnar, Putrih described this as being 'not only a monument to Thomas Jefferson and the nation, but also to the modern age.' Saarinen's 192-metre-tall structure is a 'catenary' arch, which is the ideal curvature formula for an arch to support its own weight. Putrih's sculpture–model echoes this structure, while also introducing the element of irony of which he speaks: the work is constructed from cardboard boxes, which diminish slightly in size so that each box fits into the proceeding one. This playfully undermines the structural principle of an arch and its heroic dimensions associated with bridges, cathedrals and victory arches. The inherent paradox of a monumental and stable architectural form made of something so impermanent is typical of what Elena Filipovic has referred to as 'artworks haunted by calculated instability'.(2)
David Burnett, Artlines, no.3, 2008, p.33.
1 Tobias Putrih, cited in Evence Verdier, 'Putrih the anarchitect', Art Press, issue no. 300, 2004, p.49.
2 Elena Filipovic, 'Space of doubt', in Tobias Putrih 99 07, Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York, 2007, p.121.