Zsófia Keresztes at Elijah Wheat Showroom

Artist: Zsófia Keresztes

Exhibition title: Glossy Inviolability

Venue: Elijah Wheat Showroom, New York, US

Date: February 29 – April 12, 2020

Photography: Philip Hinge & Dávid Biró / all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Elijah Wheat Showroom, New York

We ride a wave of compassion, yet is it all a pretense, merely the facade of empathy? How do we prove that we actually care? Keresztes’ work challenges the viewer to go beyond the enjoyment of the aesthetic to a frank interrogation of the challenging symbolism within the beautiful structures.

Here are works which nod towards the idea of an abandoned spider web, of teardrops joined in a “network”. The tears, Keresztes has suggested, represent social media and its predatory claims on our sadness – and the sadness of others. Using a pastel palette of tiles, Keresztes’ formidable technique creates a mosaic which becomes an actual web of tears, linked to the habits we form of searching to assuage our feelings of self-pity, our projections, our need for others to notice and see us.

The central figure in the gallery greets us as “a robust woman figure in a waiting position, gleaning the acquired attention,” Keresztes says. This woman “sacrifices herself on a bed of nails, her body decaying into pieces. Then, she incorporates them together again joining into the circulation.” The pixelated body folds into itself, encompassing the figure’s virtual and actual being. Her mission is to feed off the grief of others, while her pretense is that of inviolability. Her sham empathy, its unbearable weight, is represented by the form of a superficial teardrop which smashes down on her limbs.

Empathy is a magic word, a feeling everyone apparently wants to own. Like a wizardly still life, it purports to provide the key to the other’s personal pain and grief. But how genuine – or how phony – are the tears that drop from a shared loss on social media? It’s hard to negotiate through the web of ironically disconnected connectedness. Flocks of sentiment flow into the comment section; all valuable, yet only some solidified by the follow-up and the reality of human presence.

-Carolina Wheat