Marie-Louise Ekman

Moderna Museet | Stockholm
June 17, 2017–September 17, 2017

Marie-Louise Ekman, Fiskbullar i hummersås (Fishcakes in Lobster Sauce), 1968, appliqué on satin, 48 x 68 1/2".

Though the Moderna Museet has been collecting Swedish artist Marie-Louise Ekman’s work since 1968, this is her first solo exhibition at the museum, and a refreshing one at that. Ekman has served as the artistic director of Stockholm’s Royal Dramatic Theater and the first female dean of the city’s Royal Institute of Art and is a filmmaker who has produced hilarious and popular broadcasts for Swedish television. Here, her works in painting, sculpture, and film, all of which are equally freaky and eccentric, take center stage.

For this exhibition, the main gallery is covered in huge untitled wall paintings depicting three ordinary stoves in the artist’s signature comic-influenced style: flat backgrounds, bold contours, and idiosyncratic figures in shiny colors. The domestic space is a recurring motif throughout her work, and the museum has arranged hundreds of paintings, dating from the early 1960s to the present, in which a blonde white woman also plays a prominent role. Failing to fit into the female roles she is ushered into, this woman metamorphoses from an elegant lady to a man, then to an ape, and finally into a white bird that flies off to freedom in Striptease, 1973. In the second part of the installation, films including Hallo Baby (Hello Baby), 1976, starring Ekman as a half-naked ballerina painting in her studio, and The Elephant Walk, 1979, her first feature film, are screened in rooms stuffed with colorful carpets and fluffy pink fabric.

The most astonishing piece, though, is Fiskbullar i hummersås (Fishcakes in Lobster Sauce), 1968, which Pontus Hultén, the museum’s then-director, acquired the same year. This appliqué work on pink silk is pinned to the wall unstretched, offering up a popular Swedish working-class dish as if it were a national flag.

— Vivien Trommer