For Olek, the past year has seen endless legal battles in London, which led to a brief incarceration and house arrest. During this time, it must have seemed as if a long road was ahead of her. The majority of the work on display at her recently opened show at Jonathan Levine Gallery was made during this time in London, when the end was indeed far. However, don’t let the image of Olek crocheting away in a cell paint a disparate image of the installations that the artist created during this time in her life. The spectacle that one has come to expect from energetic and vibrant artist has only intensified. The speakers have been turned up to 11, if you will.
The entrance to Olek’s work hinted at the pageantry that would unfold in her exhibition upstairs. Harkening to her court trail, the artist has used her recent text-based body of work to draw upon these experiences. An anonymous figure, perhaps representing the everywoman, carries a flag with the empowering phrase “nobody can hurt me without my permission.” The ominous tone set in the entryway distinctly contrasted the whimsical tone set by her performers in the gallery space.
Silent figures, sometimes making comedic gestures, commanded the elevators for the hoards of guests visiting the opening. As a part of their performance, these figures made their way to a temporary store front installation in the garment district. There, the title of Olek’s show, The End Is Far, was sewn over her standard mix of green and pink crochet camouflage.
For the two figures who operated the elevator, the ten block journey represented but a short walk compared to the lengths that the artist went to bring visitors into her crochet-covered world at Jonathan Levine Gallery.
Upon entering the gallery, visitors are greeted by one of several fantastical models that don an anonymous mask and mermaid fins. For Olek, her installations are do not solely focus on the act of covering, which is a feat unto itself with the twists and curves of each piece in her dinette set, but also bringing her textures alive through movement. As you pass through the crowds of onlookers, some models swing towards guests, while others reenact Hamlet with the gold ribbon coated skulls they are surrounded by. As the models came to life, Olek herself became a part of the performance as she appeared in a crocheted bodice and woven hoop style skirt, pulled together mere hours before the show. Using scraps left over from the installation, the artists matched her work and too became a part of it.
The End is Far will be on display at Jonathan Levine Gallery until March 23.
Photos by Rhiannon Platt