Interdisciplinary artist who uses objects, illustration, installation and audio recordings to create a symbolic lexicon for today's world in a natural and social context. Born 1979 in Kraków.
Maria Loboda sees reality and the material world as a universe of signs and meanings. She is interested in the symbolic connotations of physical objects in relation to time and history. Loboda investigates the connections between material things and the spiritual realm, between rationality and mysticism. Her works employ means of expression typical of various fields of art such as sculpture, installation or drawing – they can’t be easily categorised.
In the years 2003–2008 she studied fine art at the Städelschule art academy in Frankfurt am Main under professor Mark Leckey. From 2007 until 2008 she was a visiting artist and scholar of the New York University and Steinhardt School of Culture. Loboda received scholarships from the Dresden Cultural Foundation of Dresdner Bank (2008) and from the Hessische Kulturstiftung (2010). She lives and works in Berlin and London.
In one of her early works entitled A Guide to Insults and Misanthropy Loboda used flowers to explore the ability of words to take on a material form. The piece from 2004 consisted of an unusual arrangement of plants in a vase. The eccentric combination of large and small blooms, which had contrasting, dissonant colours, referred to the symbolic Victorian language of flowers. The elements of the bouquet conveyed rather negative notions such as hatred, distrust or grief. Loboda later created several other versions of this work. Each of them was different depending on the choice of plants and vases and on the way the artist arranged the flowers.
This piece was symptomatic of Loboda’s general approach to art, which was to manifest itself also in her later works. In 2007 she created the floor piece entitled What Will Happen?. It consisted of a dark parquet, in which several bright, geometrically shaped elements were placed. On top of it stood a peculiar-looking goblet accompanied by a spoon. The signs in the floor were based on symbols from the I-Ching – an ancient Chinese book of divination. In the oriental tradition it was essential to first ask an honest and respectful question in order to access the tome’s magical powers. Loboda’s work provoked the viewers to inquire about the meaning and purpose of the piece, therefore directing them towards the world of augury.
In 2010 the artist created a piece entitled Tasks Abandoned Before Completion. It consisted of a monolithic desk covered with black leather. On the surface of the object a trace of a removed item was visible. In this work a piece of furniture, which is usually associated with work and concentration, is stripped of its obvious functions and is transformed into a symbol of unaccomplished tasks.
In an interview from 2011 Maria Loboda talked about her creative method:
Unsurprisingly, the main activity I undertake in making art is thinking. I am not a particularly skilled craftsman and I rarely take much pleasure out of doing things (…). I am inspired by the art-making tradition, the knowledge behind craft, the systems, materials, ingredients one needs to create something. I am sort of fearful about becoming professional in any craft. I prefer to be a visitor, who doesn’t speak the language particularly well, but understands enough to knowingly misapprehend.
In 2012, Loboda was selected to present her work at Documenta 13. Her piece, This work is dedicated to an emperor (2012), was an installation of 20 cypresses that compose a sort of moving forest that travels over the law of the park, shifting its composition and moving gradually from one side of the Orangerie to the other.
At the end of 2014, Loboda created Day for Night during her stay in the high mountain shelter in the Valley of the Five Ponds. The stained glass window piece transforms landscape seen through it using geometric structures. Later, Loboda made a follow-up film, Night Conquers Day. It is a mysterious combination of images of the symmetrically regulated urban greenery and sophisticated architecture with wildness of nature and asperity of the mountains.
In January 2017, Loboda’s individual exhibition opened at CAC Contemporary Art Centre in Vilnius, Lithuania. The show, I am Radiant, I am Radiant, I am Radiant in My Defeat, conceived especially for the CAC hall, further pursues her ongoing artistic explorations into the archaic concepts of diverse belief systems, the transcendental ideas of the human soul and the wholeness of their manifestations in arcane objects, archaeology, architecture, religion and art.
On the 24th of February 2017, Loboda’s first institutional solo exhibition in Switzerland opened, presenting an ensemble of newly commissioned works that continue her particular brand of ‘contemporary archaeology’. The exhibition was entitled Maria Lodoba: Havoc in the Heavenly Kingdom.
In 2019, Maria Loboda's first individual exhibition opened at the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, entitled Siedząc Tutaj Znudzona Jak Lamparcica (Sitting Here As Bored As A Leopard). The title comes from Sylvia Plath's poem Leaving Early and was not the only inspiration from literature or film that visitors could find in Loboda's exhibition. The artist skilfully redirected the viewers' attention from her art to the codes, metaphors, symbols and puzzles contained in it, imitating her favourite creators: Alfred Hitchcock, Agatha Christie and Edgar Allan Poe.
The exhibition presented Loboda's premiere works, including sculptures, photographs, objects and even stained glass. As the artist says: ‘I try to build each exhibition around a small story – a haiku of some sort – so that all the works “belong together” and interact with each other’. Each work created a logical structure, while also aiming to destroy narrative fluidity.
The key to understanding Maria Loboda's works lies within their titles, which serve as a map for recipients, setting the path in a tangle of strange, magical stories with a Lynchian feel:Nothing is as it seems. The title of the exhibition brings to mind a bored and lazy, but nevertheless powerful predator, thereby evoking a feeling of both peace and danger. Loboda expresses mortal danger not by tension but by boredom – depicting the calm before the storm.
The entrance to the exhibition space led through a minimalist colonnade, usually used to symbolise power and glamour. However, Loboda's columns lacked ornaments and refinement; they were rather a game with cultural meanings of monumental, classical constructions.
The main elements of the exhibition were large, neutral, modernist sculptures, placed in the middle of the room, which served primarily as seats for those taking care of the exhibition as well as visitors. This is another lightly sketched yet significant breakdown of our habits, furthering their deconstruction. This effect was enhanced by the shades of blinds on the walls, which resembled an office interior more than a temple.
Loboda plays with the common patterns, we follow when visiting museums and galleries – ultimately, works of art are meant to be protected from the touch of visitors. The artist contains a lot of such contrasts in her exhibition, which made viewing it an unobvious journey through the artist's intertextual world, open to many interpretations.
Selected solo exhibitions:
- 2019 – The Model, Sligo, Irlandia; Woman Observing the Alpha Persei Cluster, Galerie Thomas Schulte, Berlin; Siedząc Tutaj Znudzona Jak Lamparcica/ Sitting Here As Bored As A Leopard, CCA Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw
- 2017 – Havoc in the Heavenly Kingdom, Kunsthalle Basel, Bazylea; I Am Radiant, I Am Radiant, I Am Radiant in My Defeat, Centre of Contemporary Art, Vilnus
- 2016 – Some Weep, Some Blow Flutes, The Power Plant, Toronto; Domestic Affairs and Death, MaisterravalbuenaGalería, Madrid
- 2015 – Maria Loboda, CAPRI, Dusseldorf
- 2014 – The Plutonian House, Mendes Wood DM, São Paulo; Sub Rosa, Last Resort, Copenhagen; A Rapid Approach Or More Likely Departure, Schleicher/Lange, Berlin;Dead Guardian, KunstvereinBraunschweig, Braunschweig
- 2013 – Las Fieras, MuseoNacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madryt; General Electric, Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York
- 2012 – The Tempest, Ludlow 38, New York; A Guide to Insults and Misanthropy, Ludlow 38, New York; The Messenger, Schleicher / Lange,Paris
- 2011 – Maisterravalbuena Galería,Madryt; Dynamite Winter Palace, Schleicher / Lange, Paris
- 2010 – Maria Loboda, Krome Gallery, Berlin;Maria Loboda, Bielefelder Kunstverein, Bielefeld
- 2009 – Conversational Style, Schleicher / Lange, Paris
- 2006 – Moderne Ehe, ritter&staiff, Frankfurt am Main
Author: Marek Kępa, June 2012, updated by HSz, April 2020.