“A Way of Life: Swedish Photography from Christer Strömholm Until Today”

Moderna Museet | Malmö
Ola Billgren place 2-4
February 1, 2014–May 18, 2014

Ann Clarén, untitled, 2006, pigment printed on acid-free cotton rag, 23 1/2 x 23 1/2”.

Curated by Anna Tellgren, this exhibition presents an impressive ensemble—twenty-nine photographers in total with three hundred photographs spanning from the 1940s to the twenty-first century—of documentary photography from Sweden. Works by select artists with a peripheral rapport with the Nordic country, from countries including Finland, the United States, the United Kingdom, Latvia, and Russia, are also on view. Described as “images [that] are nothing but self-portraits” by exhibited artist Christer Strömholm, the chosen images emphasize intimacy, contact, and the possibility of locating a shared truth that prevails among the documented masses.

Swedish artist Anna Clarén here presents the series “Holding,” 2006, which was created during a four-month stint of complete isolation. Punctuated by close-ups of scarred flesh, candid nudity, and vacancy, most depict scenes between the camaraderie and the loneliness between humans or animals within nature. In one, the artist herself is seen resting alone underneath a thin blanket on a twin mattress lying on the floor of a bare room. Many rooms in the documented series are devoid of people, with few to no signs of life—like a stage without actors or a game without players.

JH Engström presents a work in progress titled Tout va bien (All Goes Well), 2014, which was inspired by his familial relations to a moody circle of friends. For instance, images depict local graffiti artists in action, or the reflection of a smitten couple seen through dirty glass. His images also possess a stained or washed-out affectation. A selection from Nan Goldin’s “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency,” 1979–86, provides an American perspective on love, sexual aggression, and drug usage—work that clearly has influenced Engström and the other artists in the exhibition. The shows gives way to a universally driven creative voice no longer associated with an assumed Swedish way of life, but one of human beings in transition—anywhere.

— Jacquelyn Davis