The New York Optimist
November 2008
“Lady Musgrave Reef” and others.
The work of Petra Maitz.
When ever I’m back home I like to pass by some of the public art venues that
are more abundant these days and accommodating to especially politically
responsive projects and Broadway Windows at 10th and Broadway would be one
of them. Not all the works appearing in this street corner window location have
the arresting staying power to keep me from Gonzalez-Gonzalez if I’m heading
south from the Strand. In fact in the last 10 years or so that I’ve been spying out
this venue only one presentation kept me intrigued and baffled long enough for
me to miss my happy hour binge and that was the “Hyperbolic Crochet Coral
Reef” installation initiated by the Institute For Figuring which operates out of L.A.
The window installation was absolutely both gripping and provoking and
displayed some of the most delicate and deft handling of materials I’ve seen in
too long a time for which there is no excuse if you consider that this is New
York, the Mecca for so many artists to flock and show off.
The dichotomy of the crocheted coral of the “Hyperbolic” reef within the urban
framework of steel, glass and concrete almost appeared elementary in its
effectiveness though no less significant. It was as if the elements of the city
immediately outside of the glass “aquarium” were the cause for the creepy and
uncanny sinister presence they imbued. The coral reef and the vanishing of the
world’s other natural resources don’t really come to mind on that corner unless
you’re day dreaming about a Cancun vacation with brightly colored drinks with
plastic toys protruding from them, never the less this re contextualization of hand
made “gothic” toned coral topped with bright orange stopped me in my tracks
and served to magnify the crisis with its somber delivery.
The installation evoked an almost identical work I saw more than a year ago in
the exhibition “Lady Musgrave Reef”, at the Neue Galerie in Graz, “Hall of
Mirrors”, in 2007 by the Austrian artist Petra Maitz. Working independently from
the IFF and only aware of the group after her project was in full drive, Ms Maitz
implemented a more comprehensive handling of the ecological issues by
outsourcing the fabrication of the project to 12 women in India producing 1700
pieces of coral.
In the opulent “Hall of Mirrors”, refurbished in the late barouche period with its
vaulted ceilings and gold gilded molding encircling its windows, doors and of
course mirrors, a vast assortment of coral made from crocheted wool, silk and
other natural and synthetic fibers proudly reverberated its Technicolor aura. The
site of their immeasurable number and their explosive hues of pink, chartreuse,
fungus greens, electric blues and the obligatory but appropriately apportioned
whites and other neutral tones was startling. Not because the work seemed out
of place (as if fighting with its majestic host because as an invited guess it forgot
to tone it down and leave the boa and feathers for the “Love Parade”), but
because these supple amorphisms with their prickly tentacles and appendages
seemed poised on a large pad from which this “cache of psychedelic fire works”
were to be launched. The location was a suspiciously well chosen accomplice
with all the ornate trim, balustrades and intricately patterned wall décor of the
chamber room itself not to mention the bellowing chandeliers glistening from
above ready to light the fuse.
What could have come off as the “800 pound guerilla” wearing lipstick in a ball room usually reserved for magistrates and dignitaries displaying a peculiarly
similar conceit, instead resonated with a precarious balance of poignancy and sarcastic eloquence.
Back on Broadway the L.A. contingent held loyal to the form of what coral really look like yet the colors applied were even more sober and critical in their
shadowy tones and articulated a blunter but no less poignant message. And on the other end of the spectrum the Maitz factory produced a nearly ironically
vibrant festive interpretation of the demise of such rich assets.
Both camps presented an ambitious geologically conscience mission working with the same subject matter, materials and using various traditional techniques of
crochet while unacquainted with each other. The uniqueness however was in their obvious visual dissimilarities that exposed a discrepancy in how the objective
could be handled in the attempt to raise awareness to the erosion of some the world’s most beautiful natural resources due to our increasing need for fossil fuel.
Not to mention the impact it had on someone having the unexpected opportunity to experience both projects incidentally in two very different countries without
the tempering of the others’ agenda.
For months I wondered if this was coincidence or collaboration and if it really was an issue at all. What mattered in the end was to have come upon this
installation in NYC having had met its unknowing sister in arms in Europe by a different artist sometime before, perhaps as a reminder that authenticity and
exclusivity is irrelevant in a town so big on itself regardless whether or not “it” was made by the author or by proxy.

Alexander Viscio
Petra Maitz, geb.1962, lives in Vienna & Trieste


1980-1987 Medizinstudium, Universität Wien
1988-1991 Kunstgeschichtestudium, Universität
1991-1995 Hochschule für bildende Künste, freie
Kunst bei Stanley Brouwn, Hamburg  

Solo Shows, Projects

2009/10 Science/Museums-The Janus Pannonius
Muzeum, Pecs, Hungary, Cultural Capital of EU

2008 Museum of Contemporary Art, with Irena
Lagator, Banja Luka, BIH, Ex-Yugoslavia
2007 high noon, werkstadt graz, Austria
Neue Galerie Graz, Spiegelsaal, Graz, Austria  
2006 Lady Musgrave Reef, Galerie Stadtpark, Krems
2005 Trieste-Graz, travelogue, do not enter, San
2003 Boswil, Künstlerhaus, Switzerland
1999 Locations & Behaviour , Galerie Menotti,
Baden bei Wien, Austria
1998 Petra Maitz, recent works, Central Fine Arts,
1997 elastic space sounds, Steinerner Saal,
Landhaus Graz
1995 Seperate Show, Art Fair Basel, Galerie
Displacements - Locations of Culture, Neue Galerie
Studio, Graz, Austria
(curated by Christa Steinle & Peter Weibel)
Obschon Malerei, with Nicole Eisenman, Galerie
Mittelstrasse 18,
Potsdam, project Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin
1994 Yellow Room, Westwerk Hamburg, Germany
Group exhibitions

2009/10 Library, Balkan Open Book: BOOK-
EARTH-MAPS, Cazak, Serbia; Sarajewo, BIH
2008/09 EROS, Galerie Lang, Wien, Austria
2008 I´ve Got A Coral Reef Too, LACE, Los
Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, L.A., USA
Die Liebe zu den Objekten, Landesmuseum St.
Pölten, Austria
gemischtes sextett, Galerie Exner, Vienna, Austria
Miniaturenbiennale Belgrade, Serbia
City/Face of the City, Cazak, City Cultural Center,
Independent Sumerstage Festival, Vienna
regionale 2008, Orientierungen, "Himmelszelt",
Feldbach, Stmk., Austria
Künstlerbücher-Präsentation: Gerhard Eckel, Petra
Maitz, Dagmar Varady, galerie stadtpark, Krems,

2007 WETTERFLECK, werkstadt graz, Graz,
Styria meets Syria, Neue Galerie Graz, Studio,
Graz, Austria
Wettbewerbsausstellung, Neue Galerie Graz, Austria

2006 mixed pickels, K3, Zürich
2005 Ars Pingendi, Landesmuseum Joanneum Graz,
Meisterwerke öst. Malerei, Austria
Project-Artist in Trieste, L. Safred
Neuerwerbungen der Sammlung 2005, Neue Galerie
Studio und Hofgalerie, Joanneum Graz, Austria
Bildverlust, curated by Martina Lunzer mit Corinna
Schnitt, Harun Farocki, Topkino, Wien, Austria
2004 Tätig /Sein, NGBK, Berlin, Germany
The Personal is Political und Peinlich, Kunsthalle
Exnergase, Wien
2003 Stundenhotel, Gästehaus, Boswil, Switzerland
bed making is hard work, Kunstraum Aarau,
cancelled, Switzerland
all about: female sex, Galerie Academia, Salzburg,
CPZ 03, Collage, Papier, Zeichnung, Vienna
2001/2002 Wien-Kairo, Kairo, Forum Weltoffen,
NOEDOK, Kulturpreisträger, St. Pölten, Austria
Female - Sex - Male, Vienna
2000 Der anagrammatische Körper (curated by P.
Weibel, C.Steinle), ZKM, Karlsruhe
My Love Painting, Kunsthalle Exnergasse, Vienna  
1999 Der anagrammatische Körper, steirischer
herbst 99, Austria
rumford 26, Munich, Germany

1998 Stephen Dicillo, Niu Bo, Petra Maitz, Michael
Rees,Central Fine Arts, N.Y.
1997 Time is a Man - Space is a Woman, Via
Farini, Milano
Tu felix Austria, Galerie C. König & F. Lettner,
Flanieren in Wien, Galerie C. König,Vienna
1996 silver screen, Spot Gallery, N.Y.
I´m Your problem, Kunsthaus Mürzzuschlag, Austria
(curated by Johanna Hofleitner)
1995 En passant..., Academy of Fine Arts Vienna,
Kunstverein Hamburg
(curated by Andreas Spiegl)
contrappunto, Museo Revoltella di Trieste &
Galleria Bassanese di Trieste
(curated by Sabrina Zannier)
Körpernah, Galerie AK, Hans Sworowski,
Frankfurt, Germany
Modelle, Skizzen und Notizen, Raum für aktuelle
Kunst, Martin Janda,Vienna
cherchez la femme, Kunsthaus Hamburg, Germany
1994 Körpernah, Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna, Austria
Grants, Awards & Scholarships, Preise und

1994 Staatsstipendium , BfWFK,Vienna
1995/96 New York-studio , Atelierstipendium ,
BfWFK, Vienna
1995/96 Viktor - Fogarassy - Preis , Graz,
Steiermark, Austria
1996 Preis der Stadt Graz
1998 Positionenpreis des BKA für
grenzüberschreitende mediale Arbeitsweise,Vienna
2001 Kulturpreis, NÖ, mit Elke Krystufek u. Agnes
2003 Artist in Residence,Kuenstlerhaus Boswil,
2006 Landeskunstpreis, Steiermark, Graz, Austria

Screenings, Filmvorführungen

UCU, N.Y., Spot Gallery, together with Kevin
Clarke und Brian W. Devlin, Venice, June 95
Galerie König und Lettner, Wien 1997 „In Advance-
Past, A Walk 96„," Video
Diagonale, Kunsttransfer II, Festival of Austrian
Film 1998, Graz, Venice, June 95 ( S8 film)
Hotel Utopia, Summerstage Videoprogram, Wien
1999, curated by C.Ruhm & A.Wachsmuth
Via Farini, Milano, Time is a Man, Space is a
Woman, 1997
a perfect day, 2003, The Smile Isn't Forever, 2002,
cosmetics crochets,2003, Stundenhotel, Boswil,CH
" glasswork - service for Rebecca Horn ", 1996,
Bildverlust, Teil 1, Topkino Wien, Austria, 2005
Lectures, reef-ecologies,DVD, 2006, Bremen, Wien
Lady Musgrave Reef, DVD, 2008, Graz, Banja Luka
For More On Petra Maitz, please visit her site
Do you have a question for our curator?
If so, please contact Alexander at