Eva Grubinger’s Untitled (No. 1) refers to Vexier (or disentanglement) puzzles, historically used in various cultures as a form of cerebral training. This specific work is based on an African puzzle. The conundrum, however – how to manoeuvre the two balls to one side of the block – is rendered physically unsolvable: the work, even were it not a sculpture, would be too big to manipulate, and can only be resolved in the mind.
Untitled (No. 1) is drawn from Grubinger’s 2016 series Five Problems, other parts of which are concurrently being exhibited at Galerie Tobias Naehring, Leipzig and were originally commissioned for Bloomberg Space in London.
It is no accident that this work has sexual overtones, for Grubinger’s Five Problems sculptures twist these intractable puzzles into offering worldly associations. They hint at (literally) large, unsolvable problems that colour our daily lives, from competition and conquest to the desire for risk – these aspects seen here in the work’s secondary allusions to maritime rope-work – and the battle of the sexes. In this regard, Five Problems extends Grubinger’s longstanding sculptural inquiry into how everyday objects, through modifications of scale, tonality and surface, can reveal the background conditions that invisibly shape our reality – conditions that, if they can never be fully disentangled, deserve thinking through.