The ordinary cardboard boxes used to pack kitchen and bathroom appliances are for the artist Alexander Valchev sculptural material with plastic qualities. It is used to create three-dimensional objects installed in space and to engage specifically “in” and “with” this space. The perception of both objects and space is classical: the viewer is asked to walk around, to observe and to contemplate; to evaluate aesthetically the “abstract” geometrical forms, the volumes and their interrelations. The cardboard boxes “are” and “aren’t” the art work both at the same time. They are not only building up the space but are also supplementing various meanings and semantics; they are “telling” us about the time when they were made, about the culture of this society from its highest to its lowest everyday strata. The art work here is not merely the box but the space – it is populated by volumes constructed by, within and in-between the boxes that are known from the artist’s previous iterations. In times past the viewer would encounter the self-portrait of the artist drawn on the surface of the boxes/volumes. This exhibition now is a total environment and a space that is maybe the “self-portrait” of the artist as it is. One is tempted to talk about claustrophilia – the author’s love for closed spaces that are at the same time the construction (though fluctuating), as well as the energy image (quite powerful) of the world.
By the use of cardboard boxes as his material, Alexander Valchev is part of a notorious “family tree” in the art of the last few decades. From the wall-mounted Pop-art reliefs of Robert Rauschenberg, through the minimalistic compositions of Heimo Zobernig, and on to the open forms in the works of Danh Vo, the card box used in art has already acquired the aura of timelessness. From a material that is both perishable and recyclable, the cardboard in the works of Alexander Valchev is transforming the everyday life associations in order to impress time and again ideas about space and structure, to express the inner feelings of the artist, and to challenge the experiences of the audience.