Memory Projects

12 Jul 2024 – 16 Aug 2024

Regular hours

10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00

Free admission

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New York
New York, United States

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This marks the second solo exhibition in New York for Croatian artist Martina Grlić, where she rearranges and reappropriates visual allegories that revolve around cultural, political, economic, and social legacies, as well as gender perspectives.


At first glance, Martina Grlić's paintings might appear fragmented, fuzzy, or even incomplete. However, this is a deliberate artistic choice made to visualize the inconsistency of the recollection process. Interested in the intersection of personal and collective memory and a blurry line on which certain forms become semi-recognizable, the Croatian artist combines technical skill with conceptual depth to convey the understanding of human identity. Drawing on the metaphor theory, her Memory Projects are essentially rearranging and reappropriating visual allegories revolving around cultural, political, economic, or social legacies, as well as gender perspectives.

Born in the early ‘80s in the now non-existent Yugoslavia, Martina Grlić (Zagreb, 1982) was a teenager when sudden and violent changes completely upended the socio-political landscape and existing values. This intense experience set her artistic journey on a course of questioning and understanding how such an unstable environment, or any other environment, shapes our identity and forms who we are. Initially, her approach was systematically divided into coherent and separate series focused on specific subjects. But over time, it kept sinking deeper into the void of her mind space and evolving into a universal painterly inquiry of how the sociocultural environment conditions our identity and self-formation. Namely, why certain things impact us, the significance of these relationships, their societal influences, and their necessity or benefit. Although the process begins with a flashback, a personal trigger that sparks an emotion or idea, Grlić keeps searching for a more encompassing way of examining these complexities. In addition to exploring and reevaluating her personal memory and experiences, she incorporates universal symbols and archetypal themes to blend conscious and unconscious elements that evoke collective memories. Much like her artistic predecessors, who used their works to grapple with complex themes of memory, identity, and societal narratives, from Richter and Kiefer to Kahlo, Dumas, or surrealist greats such as Magritte or Dalí, the viewers are invited to reconsider their understanding of history, culture, and personal experience through a visual interpretation of relatable yet fragmented images.

Grlić has developed a method that aligns closely with tabula rasa theory, which views the human mind as a blank slate acquiring understanding and experience through interaction with the world. Both technically and contextually, the process begins with an empty surface, symbolizing the potential for acquiring knowledge through perception. Initially, the blank canvas is filled with dimmed, blurry imagery representing the impressions and experiences stored in our psyche. This phase regularly features enlarged snippets from everyday life, typically nature motifs, abstracted through a quick, intuitive wet-on-wet painting technique.

Its fuzzy appeal represents the vast transcendent, undefined mind field where more defined, recognizable, yet obscure and enigmatic particulars drift. Sometimes, this aspect of the work carries the entire concept, with genre scenes conveying the deficiency and inadequacy of the memory process ("memory test," "memory test II," both 2024). And just as our identity gets constructed through experience and perception, Grlić establishes meaning through metaphorical language and symbolism.

References from family photo albums, historical archives, or pop culture are all incorporated into these dreamlike, surreal compositions, exploring topics ranging from the conflicting value systems of transitional countries to gender roles and expectations. By contrasting these darkened, ethereal backgrounds with realistic, almost cinematic fragments in the foreground, she encourages narratives and meanings that resonate with personal or collective memory. These can be widely recognizable motifs from popular culture ("Star dreams B," "K&B 90210," "what is love, baby don't hurt me," all 2024), common symbols from everyday life ("I’ll wear him like a scrunchie," 2023; "Girls best friends," "Plastic flowers," both 2023), or more nebulous elements related to personal experience ("Bones," "silk," both 2024).

The ironic or sarcastic titles further provoke the questioning of the values and ideas intrinsically connected with the imagery. Suddenly, Freud's uncanny concept is evoked by transforming the familiar into the strange, normalizing the peculiar, bringing forward repressed memories, and diminishing iconic visuals. As ambiguity and distortion become norms, symbolism-infused impressions underscore the power of metaphorical thinking in shaping our understanding of the world and ourselves. Not necessarily critical but deeply inquisitive, Grlić continues to challenge conventional narratives and delve into the complexities of personal and collective human consciousness, one flashback at a time... — Saša Bogojev

Martina Grlić (b. 1982, Croatia) was educated at the Academy of Fine Arts, Zagreb, Croatia. She has exhibited at Museum of Mali lošinj; Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb; Kunstlerhaus, Vienna; Ningbo Museum of Art, Ningbo, China, and the National Museum, Gdanjsk, Poland. She lives and works in Zagreb, Croatia.

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Martina Grlić


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