Tobias Putrih at Max Protetch

This exhibition is the most recent of Tobias Putrih's ambitious explorations of quasi–scientific experiments and the intersections of architecture and sculpture; this time, he takes as his springboard Yona Friedman's pioneering 1975 treatise Toward a Scientific Architecture, which argues that when designing collaboratively, a designer must present a "repertoire" of possible options to the "user," or client. In Putrih's case study, the users are a couple, Jessica and Stuart, who are led by the artist through a series of exercises to develop ideas regarding their ideal dwelling. The resulting repertoire—casually diverse or frustratingly uneven, depending on your threshold for obliquity—comprises mono-and dichromatic Lego models, modular stick sculptures, and eye-movement charts of the couple's gazes traveling over the chosen site (in the White Mountains of New Hampshire), among other works. Putrih's concerns here are primarily conceptual, and consequently his strengths as a sculptor get regrettably little airtime. While his stick and paper sculptures, playfully bound by corks or dried mango pits, define airy, translucent volumes that may be conducive to imagining idyllic architecture, they lack the material ambiguity and visual interest he has been able to achieve in the past with, for example, his various "Macula" series. (One of these works, however, can be seen in the rear of the gallery, its rings of corrugated cardboard stacked so that, from a distance, the sculpture appears metallic and rather like a giant Slinky.) Of the questions the show raises about the function of collaboration and aesthetic choice in design, the most provocative asks whether only an unrealized model, which is destined to remain notational, can permit true architectural freedom.

Artforum.com, October 13, 2007