Nicolas Grospierre at the Graham Foundation | Art review
Grospierre’s video TATTARRATTAT and “Hydroklinika” photographs explore a Venetian palazzo and an abandoned Soviet-era spa.
According to the text accompanying Hydroklinika (2004), the abandoned spa complex that Nicolas Grospierre photographed is located in Druskininkai, Lithuania. But the site’s Soviet-era aesthetic is so otherworldly, the complex might be on another planet.
Designed by the obscure architects Romualdas and Ausra Silinskas, the spa was completed in 1981. Grospierre finds the complex mostly intact, the few stained walls and broken doors suggesting a recent zombie invasion rather than the fall of Communism.
In the Warsaw-based artist’s 32 square interior and exterior photos, the almost identical nature of the structure’s three semicircular wings messes with viewers’ heads. We think we’re looking at a single space—until we notice that a hallway is orange when it should be avocado, that one of the seemingly infinite hallways curves in the wrong direction, or that the vegetation encroaching on the building’s concrete walls varies slightly.
Though the composition and arrangement of Grospierre’s images disorient at first, they soon highlight the surreal order and symmetry of the spa’s layout—reflections of the rigid belief system that yielded an unsustainable facility. Less than a decade after the Soviet Union dissolved, the spa’s healing baths closed, to be replaced a few years ago by a water park.
The picturesque Hydroklinika overshadows the other project on view, TATTARRATTAT (2010). This two-channel video exploring a Venetian palazzo is really an animation made up of more than 500 photos. The artist photographs the same path from different directions, pulling our gaze from room to room through a series of convex mirrors. This artifice is so distracting it’s hard to grasp why the 14th-century palazzo, still in use, matters as much as the short-lived Druskininkai spa.