To celebrate the centennial of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, The Arts Club of Chicago welcomes an exhibition by acclaimed Slovak artist Roman Ondak. Known for a conceptual oeuvre that draws on both participatory and object-based processes, Ondak interrogates the peculiarities of daily life in a post-Soviet and increasingly global context. For The Arts Club, Ondak gathers four sculptural installations that have never been shown in the United States along with an ongoing series of paintings begun in the 1990s, most of which were produced expressly for this exhibition. Taken as an ensemble, this work deploys found materials to reflect on aspects of memory and place–indicating Ondak’s rather ambivalent stance toward the legacy of the readymade.
The visual and conceptual centerpiece of the exhibition is Escape Circuit, 2014, an arrangement of 42 colorful, wooden and metal cages placed in a rough circle with interlocking passages. Ondak presents the cages as a hypothetical habitat, with the implication that an animal inhabitant could experience the illusion of freedom, but without ever leaving the loop determined by the architecture of his environment. Purchased in the markets of Mexico City where the work was first shown, these cages project cultural specificity with their weathered patina and potential for a not-so-subtle political metaphor. Ondak’s gestural intervention gives lie to the Duchampian assertion that found objects could be “indifferent” or somehow resist meaning.