Paris

Ida Ekblad, Fantasy on my phone, 2017, plastisol, puff paint, cotton, linen, 62 3/8 x 62 1/8".

Ida Ekblad, Fantasy on my phone, 2017, plastisol, puff paint, cotton, linen, 62 3/8 x 62 1/8".

Ida Ekblad

Galerie Max Hetzler | Paris

Ida Ekblad, Fantasy on my phone, 2017, plastisol, puff paint, cotton, linen, 62 3/8 x 62 1/8".

For years, objects recovered from the streets and sidewalks surrounding the places where Ida Ekblad produces and exhibits her work have found their way into her oeuvre. Here in Paris, her work also opens itself to the perhaps more ephemeral attributes of a certain local form of femininity. In this gallery on the rue du Temple, one found an alluring, exuberant group of six paintings and three sculptures—works sprung from Ekblad’s poem “Step Motherfucker,” the title of which was also the show title. The artist’s rhythmic lines picture a phantasmagoric woman: “She worked in a small art institution in Paris [ . . . ] black scorpion latex / [ . . . ] she a sprocket / by the pool.”The poem exudes desire and aspiration, closing: “My Life will be Sweeter / So sweet some day.”

Paintings may have dominated in this show but the title piece, Step Motherfucker (all works 2017), undermined the hierarchy of the picture plane. The anthropomorphic sculpture—constructed from a panoply of found metal and rubber objects, including frying pans, a teapot, and metal cables—took a wide and powerful stance, seemingly lunging across a work in plastisol and puff paint on cotton spread out on the floor like a carpet. This unstretched canvas, vivid with a palette of primary colors, bears repeated checkerboard and floral patterns and a series of handprints. Under the rusted-metal base of the assemblage, the painting became a mere floor covering, a surface to be trampled.

Meanwhile, the words of the title of Ekblad’s painting Mother / Girl / French Woman are separated by slash marks, like lines of a poem, and refer to three distinct, perhaps conflicting, identities. Can one be a girl and a French woman? A girl and a mother? On the work itself, Ekblad has written GIRL in acid green and black, with the dramatic arabesques of a spray-painted tag. Other bits of canvas are covered with thick-petaled floral blooms or a loose checkerboard pattern. These are not stitched together but are hung, overlapping, from the top of the stretched frame. The diverse elements do not resolve in relation to one another; they are forced together with the kind of antagonism that grates between girlhood and motherhood, the Frenchwoman and all others.

Ekblad framed each of the paintings here in red. The rainbow-fanged monster that appears ready to burst from the canvas of Fantasy on my phone seems to picture an enraged, frantic need, particularly in the curling black eyelashes of the creature’s deranged eyes. The blunt-pawed phantom is a gruesome amalgamation of various app-derived desiderata: a plush children’s toy available on Amazon melded with the surreal and terrifying visage of a celebrity’s Instagram feed. But then Ekblad lays a swatch of canvas painted with red roses and six-pointed stars across her hyperactive portrait. “Sit still,” she seems to say to her. “Lie down.”

For Ekblad, painting “offers ways to articulate the spaces between words”—the gaps between the lines of her poems, perhaps, or the very void that we send words to fill. When Addie Bundren, in William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying (1930) speaks of the word love, she considers it, as like all other words, “just a shape to fill a lack.” “When the right time came,” Addie explains, “you wouldn’t need a word for that anymore than for pride or fear.” About painting, Ekblad has said that the “canvas can be attacked, copulated with and played like an instrument.” The artist sometimes seems to have a sadistic relationship with the surfaces she stretches, cuts, and paints. And it is in a blindly devoted, yet sadistic, way that the Bundren family haul their mother through the mud, through the flood. There is a visceral reaction that both Faulkner and Ekblad inspire in the words and images they present. They are not describing a feeling but diving deep into it.

Lillian Davies