"Mamma builds houses, Jockum inhabits them. She gathers, he hunts."
David Zwirner is pleased to present Who is sleeping on my pillow, two concurrent solo exhibitions by Swedish artists Mamma Andersson and Jockum Nordström. After spending half their lives together while maintaining separate practices, this is the first time they have exhibited together.
This is Mamma Andersson's second exhibition at the gallery (her U.S. debut was at David Zwirner in 2006), and Jockum Nordström's fifth. Known for her complex, multilayered subjects that converge between domestic interiors and Nordic landscapes, Andersson will present all new paintings. From Nordström, on view will be collages, other works on paper, and sculptures made of cardboard and matchboxes. Also featured will be two collaborative works, Sleepwalkers and Wetland, both from 2010. In these two-sided works on paper, Andersson has created lush color washes on the back, while Nordström has collaged the front with figures of people, animals, and trees.
Andersson's paintings embody a duality that is central to Swedish culture: the interplay of rural and urban aesthetics, combined with the notion of the everyday. Her lineage is tied to French painters, Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) and Jean-Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940), both known for depicting intimate domestic spaces and luminous pastoral landscapes and gardens. Inspired by filmic imagery, theater sets, period interiors, and her native land where summers are short and winters are long, Andersson's compositions and moody atmospheres suggest ambiguous narratives that are both familiar and incongruous. In her new work, scenes include a wet and wintery forest, hunched workers in a field, possible acquaintances gathered around a table, empty yet comfortable kitchens and hallways, a sleeping figure (in a painting that gives the exhibition its title). Her paintings also address materiality and the play of light and color, as her seductive, muted, and high-contrast palette is applied with both airy textured washes and thickly rendered brushstrokes.
The new works by Nordström are all made of paper, in both two and three-dimensions. Delicately and elegantly constructed, the artist's collages, watercolors, graphite drawings, and architectural sculptures feel improvisational and spontaneous, yet rich in detail. The two-dimensional works read like storyboards, and he has often referred to them as "stills," where all the action takes place simultaneously in a frozen frame. His imaginative tableaux-like environments appear as fantastical settings populated with unique figures, animals, architecture, furniture, musical instruments, and other props, all varying in scale and coexisting harmoniously. In interviews, he has referenced influences ranging from the German Renaissance painter, Lucas Cranach the Elder, to the late-19th-century Belgian artist, James Ensor, but also Nils Nilsson Skum (1895-1951), a Laplander artist and nomadic reindeer herder; Primus Moritmer Pettersson (1895-1975), originally a sailor, he started to paint after suffering from mental illness; and Storm P. (1882-1949), a Danish cartoonist. Presented in Nordström's latest work is an assorted community of characters seemingly from different eras, including primitive hunters on horseback, jazz musicians, 18th-century dandies, and a couple on a sleigh ride in a scene reminiscent of a traditional Victorian Christmas.
On the occasion of the exhibition at David Zwirner, the artists have collaborated on a major new publication, designed by their son Valentin Nordström. Conceived as part traditional monograph, part artists’ book, and part personal archive, this highly original commemorative catalogue showcases their work from the late 1980s to the present day. Included are over 200 full-color plates, including the most recent works (all from 2009 and 2010) being exhibited in New York, in addition to intimate family snapshots and inspirational source images. Who is sleeping on my pillow includes essays and poems by Paolo Colombo, Anders Krüger, and Stig Claesson, along with an interview between Nordström and his close friend, the artist Marcel Dzama.