Critics’ Picks

Lars-Gunnar Nordström, Composition, 1952–53, enamel paint on board, 48 x 62".

Lars-Gunnar Nordström, Composition, 1952–53, enamel paint on board, 48 x 62".

Espoo

Lars-Gunnar Nordström

EMMA Espoo Museum of Modern Art
Exhibition Centre, Ahertajantie 5
June 17–September 13, 2015

The painter and sculptor Lars-Gunnar Nordström was a self-taught artist who began his career as a kind of cubist primitivist but soon moved on to a severe form of Concrete art. In 1949, he was the first artist in Finland to show abstract artworks. Today he is considered a Nordic classic.

During his formative years in the late 1940s and ’50s, Nordström divided his time between Finland and Sweden, often also spending time in Paris, where he met American artists including Ellsworth Kelly. Visits to New York in the ’60s brought him in contact with Stuart Davis, Josef Albers, and others. As this excellent retrospective shows, his subsequent works reflect American influences in their increased size and scale, both with multiple panels and shaped surfaces.

A typical Nordström painting is nevertheless a single panel composed of tightly interlocking forms with razor-sharp edges, painted with industrial enamels without visible brushstrokes—a bold, challenging work allowing the viewer to see its rhythmic and spatial dynamics, its swing. The result feels much like traditional jazz with its syncopated horns. Thus it is no surprise to learn that the artist had a collection of 11,000 jazz records and that he enjoyed playing (and teaching himself) the trumpet.