I recently came away from the exhibition I Love it! What is it? at the Kulturhuset in Stockholm, asking myself: how has Sculpture evolved since the 1980’s and 1990’s? - the period which this captivating exhibition focuses on. The idea behind this show is fairly clear; it consists of a group of artists who ‘made their names’ in the 1980’s’. Whether this historical time and the artists in question, ‘transformed the horizons of sculpture’ quite as much as Lars O Ericsson suggests in his text for the show’s catalogue, this is undoubtedly up for scrutiny. One only has to look to methodologies and work, which began in the proceeding decades of the 20th century, to find plenty of substantial evidence that these artists are far more directly a part of art’s overall lineage, than his text would have us imagine. Sculptural works labelled ‘Dadaist’ or surreal by artists such as Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971), Hans Bellmer (1902-1975), Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) and Yves Klein (1928-1962), and through to the so called Pop Art purveyors, like Robert Rauschenberg (1952-2008) and Eduardo Paolozzi(1924-2005), on to minimalist artists, in the shape of Robert Morris (1931) or Carl Andre (1935) of the 1970’s – have all played a significant role in impacting on much of the works devised in the 1980’s and onwards, I suspect. And I certainly don’t see anything in this show which would contradict this assertion. Nonetheless, what is certain from looking at the work here is that much of what we now see within contemporary sculptural practice is heavily indebted to many of the artists who began working and experimenting during this important juncture.
Meta Isæus-Berlin’s Ett vattenhem & companion piece ‘the swinging bed’ above
On entering the space I am initially struck by just how lively this experience seems to be. People are engaging with the works all across the gallery. In many instances the themes and physical works themselves may be of a darker, more unsettling nature. Nevertheless, those viewing and experiencing the work during my stay certainly appear to be connecting with the pieces in a vocal and often jovial way. None more so than with Meta Isæus-Berlin’s Ett vattenhem (A Water Home) (2001), and its complimentary construction facing it, which can only be described as the ‘Swinging Bed’. As this bed - with relevant props such as bedside table, its associated contents and chairs all tied to its frame - swing from the ceiling, left to right in a clockwork motion, one is compelled to investigate further (as one young boy indeed did; by attempting to hang from the structure, much to the horror of his on looking parents). Although guarded with a piece of Perspex, the elongated ‘bathroom’ – an exact replica, therefore, a bathroom – spews out water from every possible object, collecting in a trough below, but in doing so, sprays the floor and unexpected passers-by. It’s as though a Robert Gober installation has malfunctioned and as a result, exploded. These two works undeniably become a sort of sculptural diptych - giving them the most uneasy and yet eye-catching presence of all the show’s exhibits. They have managed to convey that horrid sensation one gets when they are bed bound with illness or alcohol related overindulges; occasionally dragging your body to the bathroom and back. The saying, ‘the room was swimming’, has never felt so apt.
Two pieces from Klara Kristalovas’s collection of sculptures, intriguingly arranged
The oddly enchanting sculptures of Klara Kristalovas too made a specific impact on me. This collection of pieces, depicting multiple animal, human & animal-human hybrids, have been positioned in a black shelving unit, spot lit from above at the far end of the gallery space. These objects have a somewhat eerie quality. They appear to be characters from bizarre dreams, fairy tales and even strange forms taken from science fiction stories. These sculptures definitely connect with the darker side of the human psyche, as they appear both simultaneously familiar and otherworldly.
On adjacent sides of Kristalovas’ ‘characters’, we find to the right of the room, Carin Ellberg’s ever so gruesome looking, machine powered mobile, hanging from the ceiling, which is entitled Följeslagare (The Companions) (2012). And opposite this large construction, Olov Tällström’s ‘kinetic’ works have been arranged. The shared motion and mechanically engineered characteristics of both Ellberg & Tällström’s sculptures are clear and balanced. However, these similarities are short lived. The clean appearance and precision of planning which has evidently taken place in the production of Tällström’s work here, is counterbalanced against Ellberg’s more simple and tactile forms. Her mobile, which resembles a transmission aerial has rotating from its foundations, sort of Eva Hesse enthused, netting like brownish objects. In direct contrast are both Tällström’s computer programed works. One which, ZEN (2003 – ?), drops sand from a sharp funnelled machine onto a metallic sheet base, creating its own quite beautiful, clean liner abstracted forms – and alongside this his work Twister (2009-2011), of colourful rotating, circular Perspex that catch the light and create a certain spectrum of different hues and tones. This work gives the sense that it has a real direct and tangible purpose and feels as much science demonstration as it does traditional gallery based sculpture, which isn’t a draw back for me. Nevertheless, this claim is not something that can be attributed to Ellberg’s sculpture, and I get the feeling, nor would she wish it to be. Her work is far more directly corporeal and animalistic in its nature. It has an essential violence even - a facet not shared in the same manner by Tällströms’ works.
I Love it! What is it? is curated by Marianne Lindberg De Geer and features work by her also. I particularly recall her revolving roundabout of enlarged children’s figurines in bright yellow shirts, caps and brown Plus-fours, called Lost (2010). I deem the show has been put together effectively from a curatorial perspective. However the wall text, supplied by De Greer, I consider should have been edited, reworked or perhaps avoided altogether. It is refreshingly honest and frank - if slightly detached - but it does feel both too long and somewhat out of place in this context. This message perhaps may have been more appropriately conveyed as a hand-out or catalogue entry for the show. Nonetheless, both her work and competence as an exhibition organiser is definitely not in question here.
The other artists, which appear in the show, are Truls Melin and his ghostly like forms and use of materials, and Ulf Rollof’s violent mechanical objects, such as Utan titel (untitled) (1997). His works interact with each other and confront you the viewer with their poses and actions. I appreciated much of this work as well and strongly recommend going to see them all, in this most stimulating of shows.
The exhibition runs at the Kulturhuset in Stockholm until the 11th of January 2015.
A link to the exhibition’s website, where opening times etc., can be found here (sorry no English translation, which I feel probably needs to be addressed by the show’s organisers at some point?).