Behind the Curtain Press Release
January 8—February 21, 2015
David Zwirner is pleased to present an exhibition of new works by Swedish artist Mamma Andersson. On view at 519 and 525 West 19th Street in New York will be the artist's latest body of paintings alongside two murals, made especially for this presentation.
Andersson's work often draws inspiration from archival photographs, filmic imagery, theater sets, and period interiors. Her evocative use of pictorial space and her juxtapositions of thick paint and textured washes have a unique and timeless quality, which is further enhanced by a conspicuous absence of contemporary signifiers. Typically composed of thin layers of acrylic and oil paint on panel board, her paintings employ a broad range of techniques, deftly shifting between stark graphic lines to loose washes and thickly rendered brushstrokes. With their richly detailed and complex surfaces, the artist's works stand as testaments to her deep engagement with the painterly process itself.
New works in the exhibition include interior settings that appear to be constructed for theatrical and domestic fictions. The compositions reverberate with signs of domesticity and femininity, yet ultimately remain enigmatic. Reflecting a gradual shift in Andersson's approach to figurative subject matter, characters in her present paintings seem based on toy versions and are distinguished by a distinctive, artificial quality. Representations of dolls appear throughout the new works, as is further exemplified by Le Charme Discret de la Bourgeoisie that portrays two antique wooden dolls whose fabrication is revealed by their peg joints. Recalling shadow puppetry, Hangman shows a marionette-looking figure dangling from a wire, whose large shadow is projected onto the background.
Whereas the representation of dolls and toys is prominently on view in the aforementioned works, the reference is subtly implied in others such as Behind the Curtain, the painting which lends its title to the exhibition. One of the largest panels on view at over five feet in length, it depicts a heavily folded curtain and stage with two female dancers, whose shadowy bodies and stiff limbs give them the appearance of wooden dolls. In Ceremony, a closer viewpoint is used to depict two onstage dancers captured in midstep. Their superimposed look resembles children's paper dolls with their frozen pose, flattened color, and hard edge.
Characterized by their muted, high-contrast palette, the paintings in the exhibition address materiality and the interplay of light and shadow. Several feature darkly colored backgrounds and they, at times, result in almost eerie, still life arrangements of objects floating in space–most distinctly seen in paintings like Garderobe, in which articles of clothing have become divorced from the background and appear to exist in and of themselves. By presenting versions of everyday objects and stripping them of their contexts, the artist challenges their familiarity and allows them to be infused with deeper psychological meaning.
Also presented will be two murals painted by Andersson with compositions selected from this body of work. In 2014, she created her first mural at Artipelag in Stockholm on the occasion of the group exhibition Here/Now (through January 6, 2015). Murals reflect a recent development in the artist's practice, and by translating her paintings into complex wall-sized works, they stand as a new avenue for her to engage with scale as well as the ongoing themes central to her overall oeuvre.