Three shows in Stockholm closing on April 29th, 2023.
Matthias Van Arkel: High Density at Björkholmen Gallery
Visiting “High Density” feels like strolling through MoMA’s modern galleries, albeit in a parallel universe. One where brushstrokes have been replaced by strips of silicone, where colors do not mix and muddle, but instead stack or layer on top of each other. Like intestines, or sausages. Yes, I did recently see Everything Everywhere All At Once the Oscar-winning martial arts sci-fi film where the main character travels the multi-verse–among others a universe where hot dogs have replaced fingers. It was weird and intense. As are Van Arkel’s works. One resembles Henri Matisse’s ”The Red Room.” Red strips dominate the picture plane with vaginal shapes in various colors that function as abstractions of the artworks Matisse painted in his studio against the backdrop of a red wall. Another “Stripe Painting C” swirls in blues and whites with yellow bits, like Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” the most figurative, “All Corner Painting” appears as a doorway and hallway with no end…inspired by a wood-cut by Edvard Munch who notoriously suffered from intense bouts of depression. (Am I screaming?) All pieces do not dialog with works of modern art instead they are simply undulating lines—bodies, landscapes, topographical maps, or nothing at all. Premiering at the gallery is a smaller bronze sculpture molded from one of his silicone works—thus creating a circular relationship between painting and sculpture; modern and contemporary. A bronze painting of sorts. Installed on a pedestal, it dwarfs in size to all other works in the show but with it I imagine the artist truly reveling in the materiality of bronze and its associations with foundational modern artists like Giacometti and Brancusi.
Van Arkel’s creative and fun use of silicone draws audiences into another world, that at the end of the day, is much like but not entirely our own.
A gallerist of three decades, Roger Björkholmen was leading in bringing international artists to the Stockholm scene including Thomas Ruff, Janine Antoni, Amy Sillman, Roxy Paine, Jack Pierson, Nicole Eisenmann, Spencer Finch, and Richard Kern. In recent years he has had a larger focus on Scandinavian and Swedish artists presenting them in an impressive duplex gallery space at The Royal Academy of Arts in the heart of Stockholm.
Mark Dion: Systema Naturae at Saskia Neuman Gallery
Many bodies of research, sciences, and pseudo-scientific methodologies meet in “Systema Naturae;” over forty-five drawings present taxonomies of botany, ornithology, oceanography, archaeology, strategies of decolonization, curation, art history, bad traits, and faults of humanity, sometimes wrongfully ascribed to the natural world. Much of it will make you chuckle. Like a line drawing of a grasshopper ‘The Confused and Disoriented’ and ‘Anatomy of a Conspiracy Theory Fantastist’ with descriptors such as ‘Nihilist,’ ‘Prophet,’ ‘Profiteer,’ ‘Opportunist,’ and ‘Rabbit Hole Spelunker’ identifying the different parts of the insect. ‘Chart 35,’ a hanging scroll depicting a skeleton lacks humorous touch, listing instead human-made crisis ‘Extinctions on land and in seas,’ ‘Gargantuan fires,’ and ‘Tens of millions of people displaced,’ among others to different bones. Some works do not incorporate text like another scroll that likens a rolling pin, a blimp, and a Coca-Cola bottle to four different types of fish—shapes are similar. These diagrams present a simplified and easy-to-digest mapping of how we are destroying each other and our world. Two sculptures are in the show: metal ice buckets filled with metal tchotchkes with a penguin on top of one and a polar bear on the other. They are giving me Damien Hirst “Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable” vibes; overly fabricated, emulating archaeological and scientific findings, and funny. The gallery has two rooms, in the first drawings are mostly hung like scrolls that are white outlines on black ground hang, and in the second room framed black, blue, and red line drawings on paper hang. The works evoke exhibits at a natural history museum—fun but ridiculous for its political and factual incorrectness but full of good insights and dormant knowledge ripe for the picking.
Saskia Neuman Gallery is relatively new—opening its first show less than a year ago—the program has been artist-centric from the get-go. She opened with an exhibition of kinetic sculptures by Tobias Bradford, a Maria Bonnier Dahlin grant recipient, difficult to sell but exciting work. Dion has shown previously at Dunkers Kulturhus with the solo show “The Natural History of the Museum” in 2007. Earlier this year, he was included in the group show “Life Eternal” organized by the Nobel Museum at Liljevalchs and was invited to speak at the Stockholm School of Economics (whose dean is interested in art). Saskia Neuman Gallery’s exhibition marks Mark Dion’s first solo show in Stockholm.
Sally Kindberg: Calender at Public Service Gallery
Like Dutch Golden Age paintings, deep reading is required to elucidate meaning in Sally Kindberg’s photorealist paintings. I saw them first on Instagram and thought, how boring. They kind of resembled what I already saw in my feed. The back side of a woman in a bathing suit, a horse tattoo on an arm, someone wearing an iridescent cap looking down, stiletto nails, a buff man wearing an iridescent wife beater, and a hand holding a breast implant. Snapshots of our time, rife with gender stereotypes and beauty standards. When I visited the gallery my mind was blown by the materiality of the works; intricately painted in oil the strokes and texture are incredible. The subject matter, however, remained the same. Although, I liked some details like a Cobra phone. The Ericofon as it was called by its manufacturer the telecom giant Ericsson was the first phone to incorporate a dial and handset in one unit and came in a variety of both strong and subtle colors—a Swedish design classic. And a salmon in a frying pan, I guess. Swedes eat a lot of salmon. Swedish-born London-based Kindberg has incorporated some of the nostalgia she feels towards Sweden and its culture in the work. These pieces where humans are not present and nostalgia reigns remind me of less complex versions of Rachael Tarravecchi’s eerie scenes with concealed stories. But, overall, this specific series aligns too closely with dominant norms and stereotypes without sparking narratives or feelings that lead away from our dismal and oppressive reality.
Public Service brings major blue-chip energy to Stockholm. The gallery’s ground floor is airy and well-lit. Housed in a former bank, the lower-level showroom is set in its vaults and will present more experimental works and installations. Having opened only in January, renovations are still underway to finish a showroom and bar for select guests tucked away in the very back.
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Anna Mikaela Ekstrand is editor-in-chief and founder of Cultbytes. She mediates art through writing, curating, and lecturing. Her latest books are Assuming Asymmetries: Conversations on Curating Public Art Projects of the 1980s and 1990s and Curating Beyond the Mainstream. Send your inquiries, tips, and pitches to firstname.lastname@example.org.