Eva Löfdahl

Galleri Engstrom

Stylistically, Eva Löfdahl is something of a chameleon. In the beginning of the ’80s her works were rough, ironic, fragmentary, and provocative. Soon she turned to more sophisticated expressions. In 1983 she began making a series of seemingly neoconstructivist object paintings. These very reduced, almost minimal pieces hovered between figuration and abstraction. In 1986 she created a number of black-and-white drip paintings, exploring a more spontaneous or informal idiom. The following year she expanded that investigation to comprise three-dimensional boxlike objects covered with splashes of color.

For Löfdahl, style is neither an end nor a personal means of expression; for her, style is a starting point. Styles constitute a semiotic raw material, a field to be examined, not an individual result to be achieved after a lifetime of artistic struggle. Löfdahl’s new show is no exception. Stylistically, materially, and technically the works are very heterogeneous: abstract and naturalistic etchings, a painted symmetric relief, a realistic bust, and an installation piece containing casts of cauliflower and black rubber rings. In spite of this visual diversity, the show has a distinct thematic character. All of the signs that Löfdahl investigates are indexes: traces, marks, or castings. Her works do not so much picture the world as form part of it. They repeat it, albeit in another material. Like indexes, they are physically, but not conventionally, connected to reality. Löfdahl’s works are not simulated readymades, but handmade imprints of the already made. Even the etchings are, from this indexical point of view, prints of already existing human traces.

This gives the show a repetitive, quasi-tautological character: art as impersonal, unexpressive iteration. Löfdahl’s realistic bust—molded from a real body—is more akin to photography than to classical sculpture. Like a photograph, it is both a kind of sediment of the real and an iconic representation of it; also, it has been cropped, not composed. This statue also represents a subtle feminist critique of perhaps the most cherished of all art-historical objects: the male portrait bust on its pedestal, the symbol of power and success. With its head cropped, this bust effectively blocks all narcissistic identification that, historically, is a characteristic feature of male-dominated genres like sculpture and painting. Instead of proudly standing upon a massive pedestal, this truncated body is placed on a thin, horizontal piece of simple wood, much larger than the hollow foundation underneath. Sunk, rather than erected, Löfdahl’s androgynous (and anonymous) figure functions almost as a quiet metaphor for an ego deflated by gentle irony.

Lars O. Ericsson