Critics’ Picks

View of “Bjarne Melgaard and Sverre Bjertnes,” 2018.


Bjarne Melgaard and Sverre Bjertnes

Galleri Brandstrup
Tjuvholmen Allé 5
January 12–February 4, 2018

Rod Bianco
Waldemar Thranes gate 84C 2nd floor, above Full Rulle
January 12–February 18, 2018

Sverre Bjertnes and Bjarne Melgaard have collaborated intermittently throughout the past few years while simultaneously pursuing their own solo visions—two Norwegian ships that occasionally crash in the night. The shards of their latest sparring stretch across two galleries. Both exhibitions, though different in media and style of display, take inspiration from the writings of another Norwegian, the late Stig Sæterbakken, who authored a number of novels, volumes of poetry, essays, and short stories before taking his own life in 2012 at the age of forty-six.

At Rod Bianco, the show is divided into two dark rooms. In the first, more than four dozen untitled crayon-colored etchings are posted around the room, lit only by the projection of shifting colored letters spelling out excerpts from Sæterbakken’s texts. In the second room, ten bronze sculptures on plinths are grouped in clusters around the space, with spinning fluorescent light tubes on the surrounding walls sparking flashes of illumination that enable us to meet creatures such as Den borgerlige byrde (all works 2017), a dumb turtle-faced man-blob with a mouth for a tit wielding his elongation in fistic assurance. Similar creatures emerge in the first room’s graphics, too, with all works united by a schizo promulgation of faciality, in the Deleuze-Guattarian sense. Faces are everywhere, forming, informing, or deforming every possible surface.

Over at Galleri Brandstrup, Cobra-on-meth oil paintings surround a DJ, programmed with a different act for every day of the exhibition. In glass boxes in the center of the space is a collection of Sæterbakken memorabilia: photos, manuscripts, typed poems, and lyrics. If there’s one thing Bjertnes and Melgaard share besides their nation of origin, it’s an ambition that explodes in maximalist bombast, yielding an overspill of content that ensures nothing will cohere on anything but a visual level. Quotes from the late author are etched or painted into some of these pieces almost as an afterthought—even though his words undoubtedly inspired these works. Turbulence is spawned throughout the collaboration, the same chaos, perhaps, that Sæterbakken devoted himself to invoking.