Leonard Forslund


The art of Leonard Forslund is characterized by its extreme matter-of-factness. Objects are dryly, dispassionately rendered, banal in their everydayness: a soccer ball, a sofa, a rope ladder, a heater, a chair, a shower stall. Taken out of their ordinary contexts, these things appear with a new, obtrusive distinctness though they are not physically present and remain flat images on a canvas.

The six paintings that comprised his most recent show are characterized by a dry grayness, the color of complete boredom. On closer inspection, however, the surfaces show signs of life—vaguely shimmering greens and pinks. Forslund emphasizes the contours of the silk-screened images with a discrete relief. Every detail is meticulously finished; these paintings are almost uncanny in their perfection.

The segmentation of the canvases reinforces the impression of something artificial and constructed. The rope ladder is dismantled into—or put together by—six elements. The heater, with the complicated title Counter-Clockwise Because of the Heart: Peace (all works 1994), is rendered across three, subtly linked pieces: the system of pipes runs from one segment to the next. And here an unexpected displacement, a lapse in time occurs. The pipes disappear in one of the segments, leaving a scarcely detectable trace behind, like a memory or a perception of something that still has not taken place.

The cold speculation in Forslund’s paintings is reminiscent of Marcel Duchamp’s sketches and theoretical remarks in A l’infinitif (The white box, 1967): here we are treated to mathematical fantasies, sober dreams, and extremely precise craftsmanship. But Forslund does not offer us any Duchampian ruminations on “rotations in the fourth dimension,” but instead supplies the prosaic, but no less mysterious text Kitchen—A Drama Formula. This is a play that is resolved on a formal level, but that can be finished in innumerable ways. The manuscript placed on a table in the middle of the room becomes a “transport system” for the actors’ lines, as there are no characters in the play, only positions to be filled. Similarly, Forslund’s paintings capture a world prior (or subsequent) to human life. In This Absolute Stillness, This Downhearted Grace, a fragment of a body is about to leave the depicted space, fleeing the cold, inhospitable atmosphere.

Daniel Birnbaum