In this photo, two works in shadow boxes are hung on opposing gallery walls.
Installation view, Anya Kielar, "Madam," Document 2023 Credit: Courtesy Document

Pay attention to the details. They’re necessary to fully appreciate Anya Kielar’s exhibition, “Madam,” at Document. The minimal show only features four new sculptures, but that doesn’t limit the depth of her work. The pieces on view are wall sculptures that capture four distinct portraits of female identity, reimagining traditional “bust” sculptures as relief paintings. As you get closer, the figures in the sculptures reveal themselves. And even closer, the fragmented yet meticulously crafted materials seem to pop out. These withdrawn, dimensional portraits entice and reject their audience simultaneously, drawing people closer to make out the illusory image hidden in the shadow boxes. 

But delve into the material details. Kielar’s playful experiment with abstraction is possible solely due to her diligently crafted surfaces. The figures, carved from foam, are wrapped in patterned textiles and further adorned with paint, dye, or stencil. The technique is meant to facilitate an image that feels soft on the eye. But the real achievement is the blurring effect, creating a portrait that is intrinsically difficult to observe. 

This bas-relief wall-hung sculpture resembles the color of concrete. It shows the bust of a woman, in cubist dimensions, raising a hand to her face.
Mother, from 2023, reimagines the traditional “bust” sculpture as a relief painting.
Courtesy Document

This difficulty stems from Kielar’s hope that her sculptures will draw people’s attention to the complex dynamics associated with femininity. The upholstered fabric, traditionally associated with domesticity, allows Kielar to embed a conversation about female identity into the work. Not only does she reenvision the potentiality of bust sculptures, but she hopes to interrogate the archetypes that inspire these sculptures. Despite its minimal display, “Madam” stokes conversation in several dimensions. 

Through 6/17: Tue-Sat 11 AM-6 PM, Document, 1709 W. Chicago,

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