Camilla Løw

Sutton Lane

Camilla Løw filled her first solo show in London with work without making it feel in the least cluttered. By the door, a small arched form made from three different colored pieces of wood sat on the wall at about eye height. A raised eyebrow, perhaps, or a cupped hand, Lectro (all works 2004) invited the viewer into the gallery with more than a hint of ironic amusement. The Glasgow-based Norwegian artist used the space in its entirety: Things stood on the floor, leaned against or hung on the wall, and were suspended from the ceiling. They were made from a controlled range of materials—lengths of one-by-one wood, Plexiglas, cord, mild-steel rod, oak blocks—but to this list should be added the color, in the form of enamel or gloss paint, with which the surfaces of many works were covered. Black, red, and white were frequently used, along with a variety of greens, blues, and yellows. The range opens up conversation in two main directions.

First, it connects with ’60s sculpture: both the color sculpture of, say, Anthony Caro, Philip King, and William Tucker and the Minimalism of Donald Judd and John McCracken. This reference contributes to the quiet but intense mood of Løw’s works, inflecting the manner in which they interact with the viewer within and in relation to the surrounding architecture. But the reference is partial and generic rather than specific. Judd’s argument against anthropomorphism, for example, has no place among this sculpture, which so strongly invokes the human form. The square-section oak blocks of Viva have been threaded together on a loop of cord to make a kind of giant necklace. Hung from a nail a bit above head height, it slumps down the wall and folds loosely around itself as it spreads out across the floor. The effect is both decorative—Løw has, in fact, made a necklace-size version in metal—and, as its name implies, suggestive of a bodily presence.

The second major legacy with which Løw is concerned is that of Russian Constructivism, especially the textile designs of Varvara Stepanova. Løw lifts the dynamism evident in those patterns away from the flat plane and uses it as a means to articulate and energize the three dimensions of space. Magneto is a two-piece, person-high column made, as Løw almost invariably does in the painted-wood pieces, by gluing the requisite number of one-by-one lengths together. The other (smaller) half of the sculpture hangs down from the ceiling to within a short distance of the top of the lower portion of the column. Blow hard, you feel, and the thing might fall over. Yet it holds floor and ceiling together, and the sense of power being generated across the gap between the two parts is strong.

Where Viva is all loose-limbed nonchalance, 7, an eight-foot-long rod of mild steel with a spiky collar of several irregularly shaped pieces of clear Plexiglas, leans more attentively up against the wall. Areas of the Plexi shards have been coated with black, yellow, white, or green enamel, the paint being allowed to run over the edges a little. There is as much deliberation behind this almost insolent overflow as there is in the effort to perfect the gloss surfaces of the wooden pieces. The aim, here as always, seems precisely to do no more than is essential to achieve the desired result. If a thing will lean without falling, if a large wooden structure can hang on a nail, then that suffices: an economy of means, meticulously applied.

Michael Archer