Critics’ Picks

Susanna Jablonski, Coral Pillar (detail), 2018. Paper clay, coral, 47 1/4 x 5 7/8 x 3 7/8''.

Susanna Jablonski, Coral Pillar (detail), 2018. Paper clay, coral, 47 1/4 x 5 7/8 x 3 7/8''.


Susanna Jablonski

Bytaregatan 5
November 16–December 18, 2019

The Stockholm-based artist Susanna Jablonski’s inaugural show at Obra is titled “Dinkinesh.” It means “You are marvelous” in Amharic, and it is also that language’s name for the famous fossil known in the West as “Lucy,” the oldest and most complete skeleton of a human ancestor ever found. Here, her rib cage is sewn in wool on a lush drapery, Listening Curtain, 2019, made in collaboration with artist Cara Tolmie. The textile slices through the front room of the gallery, gently secluding—protecting?—an elegant untitled sculpture, also made this year. Circumscribed by a brass ring, its tightly packed paper towels resemble rippled white clay.

Jablonski imbues her material with meaning and history, be it prehistoric or familial. Last year, for example, she used cobblestones from her grandmother’s hometown in Poland in her first solo exhibition on her home turf. At Obra, the personal returns overtly in two found-object assemblages. In Adrianna’s Akato, 2019, items such as a plant and an alarm clock (set to Caracas time) sit on a marble slab like personal effects on a bedroom nightstand, evoking her friend’s exile in Barcelona far from the Venezuelan capital where she was born. In Henry’s Couch, 2019, a wasp nest resting on pillows refers to the practice of the artist’s father, a psychoanalyst, I am told.

The big picture invoked by Lucy, the so-called “grandmother of humanity”—rib cages reoccur in sculptures of reed and clay—paves the way for these more intimate efforts, which also include an unusually calibrated probing of the senses. Jablonski worked with musician William Rickman to create the discreet sound work String Resonator for Room, 2019, which emits occasional timbres from taut instrument strings installed in one of gallery's columns. In the back room, lavender lives up to its palliative reputation in Neon Circle, 2017, a light fixture installed over a neat pile of dried flowers on the floor. Less pleasant, and a potential trigger for trypophobia, is Coral Pillar, 2018, which, crowned by the pocked surface of a washed-out piece of reef, hints at beginnings severed by ecosystems lost.

Jablonski’s show delights in its spatial transformations and unexpected material juxtapositions, and all the more so for never shying away from the opacity of the truly personal. The different iterations of origin stories demarcate what is worthwhile: common history, of course, but also smaller affinities formed along the way.