Lars Nittve

  • Lars Nittve

    A SWEDISH COURT will soon decide whether local authorities, sports clubs, and companies were justified in charging skiers a fee this past winter for skiing in the tracks these institutions had laid through the countryside. This issue is not just a legal one. It also cuts deep into the passionately held, age-old right of public access, or allemansrätten, “everyman’s right,” a right that everyone living in Sweden takes for granted. The right of public access is the same for everyone and entitles people to roam freely in the countryside, regardless of private property or zoning. The right of public


    At first it seems that everyone’s moving in unison—a slow, hesitating, clockwise ballet around the sun-filled gallery. After a hesitation of my own, I become part of this movement, and variations in the seemingly regular pattern begin to emerge. Someone stops, squatting down for a diagonal view across the space. Another slows in his walk, as though held by an invisible force. At the end of the room a couple are seated, so still as to be almost unseen. As one woman leaves the flow, another couple join it, then suddenly stop, as if surprised, then slowly continue, hand in hand. Clockwise, around


    THE 44TH BIENNALE has left many visitors with mixed feelings. Director Giovanni Carandente had the laudable goal of returning the institution to the artists, and imposed no central theme for them to conform to as the exhibition’s core. But though it’s true that the prepackaged themes of the ’80s Biennales were realized all too predictably, in this version one misses a critical idea, if only as something to disagree with. In the Central Pavilion, in the place of a strong critical or historical subject, is the “Ambiente Berlino”show, a display of (West and East) Berlin artists. Unfortunately this

  • Lars Nittve

    “MONEY TALKS” were the buzzwords, accompanied by knowing winks, during the press days at the Café Florian. More or less wild rumors were circulating about how many dollars and deutsche marks had been spent on the installations of Jenny Holzer and Reinhard Mucha: Holzer in the American Pavilion with superelegant diamond-pattern floors in Italian marble, neoclassicist marble benches, and electronic LED signs, over 500 feet long in all, supported by fancy computer software; Mucha with a room within a room, built in exactly the same stone as the rest of the West German Pavilion, and with perfect


    IN HIS EARLY 20s, Lars Nilsson was a landscape painter in a venerable Swedish tradition. The scene of the crime, so to speak, was the dewy meadows and shimmering beech forests of Osterlen, in the southern part of the country, a region whose “picture-esque,” painterly qualities, by turns Provençal and Breton, have lured generations of straw-hatted Swedish artists to try their hand at Cezanne-type image-building, or at flickering light in the manner of Monet. Here, in the late ’70s, Nilsson could often be seen wandering like a latter-day van Gogh, easel on back. The place is the petrified forest


    “THE MOST DEEPLY INGRAINED TRAIT of the national character of the Swedes—one that goes a long way toward explaining our people’s disposition in other respects—is their strong love for nature.” So asserted Gustav Sundbärg, the Swedish statistician (or, as he was then styled, the “national arithmetician”), in an official report of 1910 entitled “Det svenska folklynnet” (The Swedish national character). Statistics, of course, can mean virtually anything one wants them to, and the face of a nation is about as elusive to read as the face of a human being. (Facial features and cranial bumps may have

  • Rolf Hanson

    When one considers that these works are executed at a scale unique in modern Swedish painting and have a heavy materiality definitely rooted in postwar American art, it seems awkward to talk of Symbolism. Still, this is what one must do when confronted with the 33-yearold Swedish painter Rolf Hanson’s large, extremely flamboyant oil paintings.

    This show comprised works painted between 1982 and 1985, many of which are composed of three or four heavy wood panels inserted into black frames. The elaborate early abstractions are pervaded by a stifled erotic energy engendered by skillfully handled

  • Eric Orr

    Turning my back to the imposing 12th-century cathedral at Lund, the first thing I caught sight of as I entered this exhibition was a “black hole,” a small rectangular aperture in a white wall that opened onto a space- and time-devouring void. Its blackness, surfaceless though velvety, at once oceanic and absolute, effaced the strong sense of historical continuity that I had had only a minute earlier. Disoriented, I caught sight of a flat rectangular screen floating in the void. Seemingly projected upon it was the animated image of a flaming fountain: along a golden upright I-beam, washed over

  • Fransk konst—en ny generation” (French art—a new generation)

    Forty years ago, in 1945, the French battleship Le Terrible steered into the harbor of Stockholm. Loaded with a number of third-rate French Modernists headed by the “official” painter of the French navy, the once-Fauve Albert Marquet, her mission was to manifest, on the periphery of Europe, the unbroken grandeur of French culture—and to bring home sorely needed export incomes to a country still heavily afflicted by war damage. Since then much water has flowed under the bridges of the Seine, and gunboat diplomacy has been replaced by more sophisticated methods. Still, the Terrible incident may

  • Per Kirkeby

    The question is whether or not this beautiful show of the complete bronze sculptures (1981–84) of the Danish painter, sculptor, author, and filmmaker Per Kirkeby may be counted a brilliant example of what the artist himself, in his texts, refers to as “a major traffic accident.” This can be defined as a biographical explosion of the kind produced when the traces of an artist’s elective affinities suddenly intersect. For Kirkeby, these influences include Danish figures—the neoclassical sculptor Bertel Thorwaldsen; the Symbolist painter, sculptor, potter, and architect Jens Ferdinand Willumsen;

  • Stina Ekman

    “An intuitive exploration of the number of sculptures contained within the cube 60x60x60 mm”: the slightly humorous tension between form and content in the subtitle of Swedish sculptress Stina Ekman’s installation, Gitter (Lattice), was hardly fortuitous. Swedish-speaking viewers recognized the untranslatable puns that the word “gitter” derived from nuclear physics, inevitably suggests—puns that make science seem akin to farce. The amazing thing was that in spite of its essentially controlled form the installation seemed to open into the viewer’s non-formal associations.

    In a square room illuminated

  • Jean Dubuffet

    I’m not sure what the crucial problem is in Jean Dubuffet’s later production, but it is large enough to make this exhibition appear weak and the majority of its hundred or so paintings, and as many drawings and prints, barren in their good-natured, French-bourgeois dexterity. The exhibition began with the early works of the big “Hourloupe” cycle, 1962–74, and ended with “Mires” (Test patterns, 1983–84). These introductory and concluding works in the chronological installation were the only ones which escaped looking oddly dated; the “collections” (Dubuffet’s word) of the mid ’70s, the “Parachiffres

  • Håkan Rehnberg

    In light of the general tendencies in art during the past few years, some events on the Swedish art scene must appear a bit odd. One can note, for example, that nearly everyone in the strong generation of artists born in the early ’50s, who have now reached an established position, works in the tradition of abstract painting. In this generation, whose esthetics have probably been colored in no small measure by opposition to the naive, often politically committed, figurative expressionism that dominated Swedish art in the ’70s, Håkan Rehnberg is one of those who have most consistently vindicated

  • Bernard Kirschenbaum

    It will seem perhaps equally surprising to Americans and to Scandinavians that since the late 70s the New York sculptor Bernard Kirschenbaum has found industries interested in using their resources to realize his projects most often in Sweden and to some extent in Finland, and that it is chiefly in these two countries that galleries and museums have been willing to subject their spaces to his quiet but drastic operations. The latest of these was at the Malmö Konsthall, whose big, open, yet perceptually secure boxlike rooms were shaken to their foundations as they became the scene of Kirschenbaum’s

  • “Quartetto”

    THE PROPORTIONS OF “QUARTETTO—three curators to four artists and six works (the curators being Achille Bonito Oliva, Alanna Heiss, and Kaspar König, the artists Joseph Beuys, Enzo Cucchi, Luciano Fabro, and Bruce Nauman)—seemed alarming. Yet the Scuola di San Giovanni Evangelista, the site of the Center for Information on the Preservation of Art and Architecture in Venice, was the perfect place for a game of high-powered cultural politics, and on entering the show I was again impressed by the congeniality of this 14th—15th-century building to the project housed in it. At least to my Northern

  • Daniel Buren

    A puzzling one-sidedness informs much of what has been written about Daniel Buren since the mid ’60s, puzzling because it corresponds to neither the variability nor the richness that characterize his oeuvre despite the constant recurrence of certain features. Students of his work have preferred to focus on its element of critique, emphasizing its negativity without considering its sensuousness or perceiving the generative power intimately connected with deconstruction. Similarly, Buren’s multidimensional art has often been exposed to one-track interpretation; the subject of his critique has been

  • Ola Billgren

    If on entering this big show of recent work by the Swedish painter Ola Billgren one knew that for a ten-year period from the mid ’60s on he had been occupied with a critical, antihumanist painting which might be related to such catchword categories of the ’80s as “appropriation,” “eclecticism,” and “post-Modernism,” one ran no risk of being disillusioned. When the initial appearance of these paintings as “Romantic” works disintegrated, one was not surprised. On the contrary, one felt that Billgren’s earlier, in itself very complex discourse on the surface, the photograph, and the mythopoetic

  • “ARS 83”

    Despite its modesty, Jannis Kounellis’ diagonal wooden palisade covering one half of a wide arched window in this neoclassical building touched on some of the central issues raised by Ars 83, the largest exhibition of contemporary art ever shown in Scandinavia. The palisade worked as a membrane, bringing the exhibition room into visibility relative to it while also both distinguishing between and linking the show’s artistic context with its wider one. Out there lay Helsinki, with its peculiar mixture of Western and Russian features; the rustic gray stone walls of the Finnish National Theater,

  • “Ibid”

    “Ibid.” is the abbreviation of the Latin word ibidem, meaning “in the same place,” but this show of works by 17 artists, located in 10 cathedrallike, quite brutal garages belonging to a disused 19th-century brewery, was not in the same place as its predecessor, a show of the same name which was held a year ago in a likewise abandoned, almost preindustrial old building once used for the production of linseed oil. The choice of name, however, made clear the intertextual relationship not only between the works of art on display but between the two exhibitions. “Ibid.” pointed back to P.S. 1’s

  • Dick Bengtsson

    The odd, disconcerting quality of his paintings, the puzzling clumsiness of his in fact extremely well-executed drawing, remove Dick Bengtsson’s work from the sphere of solid provincialism where superficially they seem to belong. At the same time their traditional look excludes them from the ranks of the avant-garde. It is only now, with this carefully chosen retrospective, that Bengtsson, who has exhibited works of this kind for twenty years, has become something more than an artist’s artist.

    A field, a stone wall, a church among trees—these emblems, in the Swedish tradition of “honest,” intimate