Helsinki

Kari Cavén

Galleria Sculptor

Jaded by the overproduction of an in New York, one hardly expects to be awakened into feeling by work made and exhibited thousands of miles to the north. Helsinki, though it remains an active center of architecture and design, is scarcely home to artists working on the cutting edge. But 31-year-old Finnish sculptor Kari Cavén, in his second one-man show, produced a group of constructions in painted wood that dispense the unmistakable tonic of authenticity Though his graceful, geometrically spare wall pieces hark back to Cubism, Dada, and Constructivism (still beloved in northern Europe), this artist displays a fully articulated sensibility all his own.

Cavén’s use of weathered siding, old painted doors, and other found fragments of wood transform castoffs into evocative abstract shapes. The formal simplicity of these pieces is enriched by the patina that comes from aged paint. Color itself becomes an objet trouvë, poetically manipulated by the sculptor for his own purposes, his constructions having erased all traces of the materials’ former occupation. This kind of appropriation is different from the current borrowing and layering of iconic images we have grown so used to in America during the past few years. In its interest in abstraction, this appropriation comes close to minimalist concerns—only to personalize and transform them into crisp objects textured with a love of vernacular architecture. What is exceptional here is the assurance projected by each work; a resolution of shape, size, and color-range makes each collaged piece seem more than the sum of its parts. Cavén seems at home in any scale—one of his most arresting pieces was constructed from a small wooden box, but several large yet delicate wall pieces, possessing the sweep of the best mural-sized abstract painting, were still more ambitious and successful in this show of sculpture located securely outside of fashion but within the Modernist tradition.

Alexandra Anderson