Maria Kozic

Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane
4 August - 27 August, 1988

The work of Maria Kozic is not only clever and witty but dare one say it, enjoyable. It has all the instantaneous appeal and immediacy usually associated with Pop art, operating, however, under the generic of "post-pop". It does not presume to exploit the images of popular culture as have previous "popist" movements, but rather it attempts to build a critical discourse within the framework of those images.

One can note this best in Kozic's "Master Pieces". This series is not concerned with celebrating the ascension of art into the realms of the mass media, thus becoming mass cultural, but in exposing the way in which this process deadens and disarms the work, removing any concepts of context. Taking images from the likes of Pollock and Picasso, duplicating them and paring them down to their essential qualities, Kozic then literally fragments them - shattering these icons and all the cultural baggage they carry with them and forcing yet another level on the work. The highly referential and reflexive nature of this art is most apparent in Master Pieces (Warhol), where Kozic shatters that most conclusive of Pop images, Warhol's Campbell's Soupcan, thereby performing the ultimate cannibalization.

Through the method of this work Kozic demonstrates the banalities of the art historical mode. She does this by invoking the almost Pavlovian reflexive response whereby all work is instantly categorized into stylistic variations (Picasso = Blue Period, Cubism, etc.) and then subverts and refutes them. This forces the spectator to acknowledge the way the art historical process is used within the popular stream and just how pervasive a process it is.

In the work, Western Spaghetti, Kozic's flirtation with popular culture is at its most virulent. It explores the mythic elements of the "old west" and the genre of the western; elements which when exaggerated to their fullest create the modern "spaghetti western". The western myth is a very pervasive one within our society - one which feeds off our need for heroes; for clear cut divisions between good and evil, and the icons of this particular format are instantly recognisable, containing as they do a mass of associations and connotations. However, again Kozic presents only broken images, partial glimpses of a celluloid fantasy, leaving the viewer to build and ponder upon the problematics of the relationships and contexts they elicit.

Kozic's work is well documented and has always attracted a great deal of interest from the more esoteric of the art magazines although it must be said that it is in danger at times of becoming enclosed and restricted rather than illuminated by these texts. One wonders if perhaps it is given so much theoretical backdrop in order to counteract the "trashy" and lightweight reputation that clings to much pop art. This however is an unnecessary precaution with Kozic for the critical aspects are well established within her work and her relationship to popular culture too carefully thought out to need such verification.