Projects 38: Jana Šterbák

Nov 20, 1992–Jan 5, 1993

MoMA

Installation view of Projects 38: Jana Šterbák at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photo: Mali Olatunji

Projects 38: Jana Šterbák, a provocative mixed-media installation by Montreal-based artist Jana Šterbák, makes reference to the repeated actions and feelings of daily life.

The installation, Sisyphus II, consists of an elegant, egg-shaped metal sculpture, designed to human scale, which rests on the floor at a precarious tilt. Projected onto one gallery wall is a grainy black-and-white film loop of a man—dressed only in briefs and standing inside the sculpture—rotating and swiveling as he endlessly struggles to maintain his balance.

In her essay for the brochure accompanying the exhibition, Barbara London writes, “Šterbák is looking positively at the accumulated experience that comes with repetition.… She laments the limitations of the body. Disturbed that she cannot fly or disappear at will, she explores our concepts of power and aspiration, drawing from intuition much more than reason. In her work, the physical opens up the metaphysical in a contemporary discourse that will ultimately yield new situations.”

Throughout her work, Šterbák has frequently employed metaphors drawn from ancient mythology as well as the symbolism of clothing to explore the boundaries of the body. Her most pronounced themes are reflected in such dualities as attraction versus repulsion and pleasure versus pain, as experienced everyday. She is particularly concerned with how people treat their bodies simultaneously as desirable and untouchable.

Jana Šterbák was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, in 1955, the child of reformist intellectuals. With the Soviet takeover in 1968, the family moved to Vancouver, where she completed art school in the mid-1970s. Šterbák’s work, which reveals the influence of such artists as Joseph Beuys, Sol LeWitt, and Dennis Oppenheim, has been exhibited at Artist’s Space, New York (1989); the Venice Bienniale (1990); The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (1990); the National Gallery of Art, Ottawa (1991); and the Galerie Nationale de Jeu de Paume, Paris (1992).

Organized by Barbara London, assistant curator, Video, Department of Film.

  • This exhibition is part of The Elaine Dannheisser Projects Series.
  • The Museum’s Projects series, coordinated by Robert Storr, curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture, is an interdepartmental effort involving staff from all six curatorial departments.

    The Projects series is made possible by generous grants from the Lannan Foundation, The Bohen Foundation, and The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art. Additional support for this exhibition has been provided by the Canadian Consulate General, New York, and the Quebec Government House.

    Publications

    • Projects 38 : Jana Sterbák : the Museum of Modern Art, New York, November 20, 1992-January 5, 1993 Out of print, 6 pages
    • 2 pages

    Installation image

    How we identified these works

    In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

    If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].

    Licensing

    If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

    MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit https://www.moma.org/research-and-learning/circulating-film.

    If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].

    Feedback

    This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].