Roman Road is very pleased to introduce Natalia LL, an artist of the Polish feminist avant-garde, to the London art scene with a solo exhibition entitled Probabilities that focuses on some of her early series. Created in the 1970s, during a decisive moment in her career, the show presents framed photographs and videos from the artist’s notorious Consumer Art and Post-consumer Art, in which she drew attention to the issues of consumer culture and the status of women in the then society. The display also features a unique installation of Natalia LL’s NATALIA!; employing the high ceiling of the gallery, this piece has been specially printed as a vinyl that measures the full height of the walls, instigating a novel experience of the artist’s work.
One of few artists in the Polish People’s Republic (PRL), Natalia LL’s work addressed the female subject in the patriarchal society of the Communist regime. Through the exploration of her subjectivity, she developed radical visual archives that embody a dynamic feminist personality. For her series Consumer Art and Post-consumer Art, Natalia employed the ambiguous supports of photography and video to challenge the stereotypical, masculinised image of the female role and to criticise the commodification of women in pornography.
In Consumer Art we find young, attractive women eating a variety of foods, such as bananas, hot dogs and jelly. The smiling models, who have doll-like features, are pictured gazing at the camera seductively as they fondle and devour such foods, which are knowingly phallic shaped or filled with sexual innuendo. Unlike pornography, the women here are seen as active protagonists rather than passive objects of male pleasure. Symbolised by the various phallic fruits and meats, the masculine element becomes a mere product for consumption. In the ensuing Post-consumer Art works, the models’ hands are empty; the foods have been consumed and they are pictured delighting in the remains.
Recording ordinary behaviours and functions, such as sleeping, speaking and eating, Natalia LL’s photographic sequences transform common gestures and activities into new morphological signs, at once evoking mental reactions and manifesting different meanings of simple acts of consumption. By documenting women eating suggestive foods, her two aforementioned series introduce themes of confrontation with the male viewer and simultaneously challenge the classic paradigm of masculine domination. Appropriately, during the PRL period, Natalia LL’s artwork became a political instrument in the quest for equal rights. Her Consumer Art was prominently seen in the advertisements for the major early feminist exhibition Frauen Kunst - Neue Tendenzen at Galerie Krinzinger in Innsbruck, Austria, in 1975.
Among the presentation of her Consumer Art and Post-consumer Art pieces, the exhibition highlights NATALIA!, another early work by the artist in which she rearranged the letters of her first name to construct new words. Jumbled into over 5000 new possibilities, the artist’s name, a fragment of her identity, is at once manifested and deconstructed within the boundaries of the work. Through an act of intuitive intervention and multiplication, this work can, among other things, be seen as a projection of her subjectivity, which unfolds through the creative process.
The law of probability is a key determining factor within Natalia LL's visual and textual sequences. For her Consumer Art and Post-consumer Art series, she created multiple works with the same titles, all configured in uniform formats based on the grid. The position of the photographs within each grid is not set in advance, leading to the possibility of unique configurations determined by Natalia LL's playful experiments with consumerism and the laws of probability. This concept of uncertainty can be seen as an extension of her examination of gender and sexuality to a deeper interest in singularity and chance.