Olga Balema

Olga Balema was born in 1984 in Lviv, Ukraine. They live in New York. They hold an MFA from UCLA and have had residencies at Rijksakademie and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Recent solo exhibitions include the Swiss Institute, New York; Kunstverein Nürnberg, Nürnberg; CAPRI, Düsseldorf; Kunstvereniging Diepenheim, Diepenheim; and 1646, The Hague. They are currently nominated for the Paulo Cunha e Silva Art Prize.

Location: Vilnius
Olga Balema Motherfucker 2016 Map, latex, pigment, acrylic paint 73 x 110 x 12 cm Courtesy the artist and Galerie Fons Welters
Photo: Gert Jan van Rooij

A trio of battered maps, the type often found in schoolrooms, hang off a wall; their surfaces covered with pigment and latex, disembodied breasts – also cast in latex – scattered here and there, despondently drooping off of them. The titles alone – Motherfucker, Everybody and their mother and Failure is the mother of success (all works 2016) – seethe venom and sarcasm, the nurturing figure of the mother earth here reduced to a repetitive series of cancerous-looking, wrinkled protuberances. In Failure is the mother of success, an abstract, geometric orange form is incised back into the surface of the support. It could easily be of the artist’s own imagining, lines that demarcate and are just as arbitrary as those on the source image: segments of the earth chopped up and partitioned, founded on the urge of power and desire but claimed as fact. While bodies – whether political, institutional or biological – proliferate across Olga Balema’s works, in the works presented at BT13, it is the remnants of the mother figure, their name spent and exhausted in vain, that clings on.

Anya Harrison