By THEODORE D. SMITH September 13, 2023
For Armory Week 2023 Wadström Tönnheim Gallery (Spain) made a guest appearance at Open Circle in Brooklyn where Swedish art collector and gallarist Mattias Tönnheim showcased eight promising artists from five different countries. The show, titled Dissolvement, explores the theme of deconstruction; questioning the lines of form, the evolution of time and the unraveling of narrative. It is a concept Tönnheim says he came across repeatedly in conversation and grew interested in the variety of ways such a topic might be approached.
The artists showcased are different in style, but a testament to Tönnheim's curation. Each offers strong conversation around the chosen theme. Among the highlights of the show, which features works by Claudia Doring Baez (México/US), Daniel Fleur (Sweden), Lindsey Nobel (US), Takuma Tanaka (Japan) and Johan Wahlstrom (Sweden), are Ellen Frances (US), Angela China (US), and Matias Di Carlo (Argentina/Spain).
Emerging multidisciplinary artist Ellen Frances first premiered work with Wadström Tönnheim Gallery this spring at the Volta Art Fair. Chosen for their “What’s On” program by directors of the fair, she presented three performance art pieces along with several paintings. Though she did not perform in front of her paintings for the opening of Dissolvement, the two pieces included in the show stand out on their own. They counterpoint strong subject matter with soft ethereal qualities giving way to what she calls “sensual surrealism”. In these dreamscapes, beautifully rendered elements of the classical figure dissolve into mysterious scenes depicted in cool jewel tones. The color palette is derived from her recent residencies at historic estates in Ireland. While there Frances studied the esoteric writings of W.B. Yeats with the Yeats Society and performed in 17th c. gardens built on monastic land. The concepts for her work relate back to these interests in ancient mysticism and it shows. Frances builds upon the legends she studies, and goes further to create her own mythological worlds that are at once confined by, and devoid of time. Using otherworldly symbolism, she presents a juxtaposition of intellectual awe and poetic despair. With this, the viewer finds deeper meanings hidden in the geometric construction of emblematic landscapes, as clouds unravel into chaotic brush strokes.
In a direct take on the breakdown of narrative and figure are Angela China's abstract oil paintings, composed of thick layers of paint in heavy earth tones. China recently had a successful solo show at Malin Gallery this spring, showcasing her large-scale works. The two pieces by China shown in Dissolvement are quite small in comparison to her more recent showings, however they maintain the same strong impact. This result has to do with how she employs the use of raw strokes to build form. Each painting is almost three-dimensional and packed with wisdom, and even a good dose of rage. The oils become sculpture-like in their ability to convey the figures of multidimensional women, which remain ambiguous at first glance. With consideration, the work quickly presents clarity and then grows heavy. The weight of her work serves an important purpose: It deals with the intensity of women's issues throughout history, addressing even the most somber of them with enough disorder to leave room for thought. From women’s struggles for rights, to the issues of abuse and assault, the female forms she conjures are also literally an upheaval in disarray. This becomes China’s strength; her ability to capture emotion using a style of working that also seems chaotic. Between the application of the paint and the image that emerges from the canvas, these two factors reveal a complete narrative of deep socio-political influence that, at first glance, appears to be broken apart.
Taking shape to the most literal level, The geometric, minimalist sculptures by Spanish artist Matias Di Carlo deal directly with the breakdown of line and form. One of the more established artists in the show, Di Carlo’s work gained increased visibility this summer, with new sculptures towering over public promenades and parks in the US and Europe. Recently Di Carlo’s work was installed outdoors at the Muelle Uno in Malaga, Spain, the Vanadisplan, Stockholm, Sweden, and his work was put on permanent display at the Europos Parkas sculpture park, near Vilnius, Lithuania. Composed of heavy metals, Di Carlo uses folds to build angular shapes that seem to morph when viewed from different angles, prompting the viewer to address the parallelities of space. Further, the study of motion is represented in the suggestion of a simultaneous folding and unfolding of the structure for a dynamic experience. Inspired by the French philosopher Deleuze who theorized on morphogenic realms of multiplicity, Di Carlo’s works meditate on the complexities of the universe. For Dissolvement, Di Carlo presents three small pieces which appear similar to chunks of meteor. Each piece’s size, shape and texture allude to traveling through the cosmos, a visualization of the space-time metaphor. The geometric sculptures feel raw and weathered as if they have withstood or traveled through time. They further hint at industrial wear with the disintegration of life as we have understood it; a philosophy in the form of objects which are perfectly in keeping with the theme of dissolving.
This pop-up for Armory Week is one of several recent U.S. appearances by Wadström Tönnheim Gallery, which has a permanent footprint in Spain and Sweden, showing artists from all over the world. WM
Dissolvement runs from September 08 - September 17th 2023
Theodore D. Smith is a Chicago-based freelance copywriter, art historian and graduate student at Harvard University where his focus centers on writing about the arts.view all articles from this author