«Poverty is part of the genealogy of collage», writes Peter Cornell in an essay on the simple, everyday quality of Hans Andersson’s materials and techniques: old Post-it notes, Tipp-Ex, and brown paper bags which are cut and combined to form new constellations. Anderson’s exhibition at Gallery Lars Bohman is devoted to the tactile properties of paper as a material that can be folded, ripped, cut, and slit. Rafaël Rozendaal work is something else entirely. If Andersson’s collages are united by the fact that they look old, that they appear to be coming to us from the past, Rozendaal’s images have clear and luminous surfaces easily associated with the computer screen. At Carl Kostyál, he shows a series of lenticular prints, images made of molded plastic whose shapes and bright shining colors change depending on the angle from which they are viewed (a kind of «computers», according to the artist, connecting to their surroundings in feedback-systems).
To walk between Lars Bohman in Östermalm and Kostyál’s gallery in a vacated office space on Kungsholmen is to be implicated in a small drama about the modern. Rozendaal and Andersson both utilize abstract geometric shapes that link their work to the historical avant garde, but draw diametrically opposed conclusions about the significance of today’s screen-based visual culture. Where Rozendaal projects the idea of a contemporary art on this side of history, of an art ’after the internet’, Andersson is attracted by the old: by discarded photographs and bits of paper that have been emptied of all value except as material, and therefore, to him, harbor even greater possibilities.
Collage? In a technical sense, many of Andersson’s works are actually découpage, where the materials are arranged as formal compositions that play down the significance of their original context. When he works with photographs or the lined sheets from a notebook, they are often positioned with the image or text side inward, or so that a paper hides the informational content of the layer below. At Bohman, the exhibition has also been bolstered by a number of objects – a metal rod on the floor, two thin chains on a wall – that point towards the significance of the incision as an image-creating operation. The recurrent thin lines in pencil are reminiscent of art-historical representations of light, and Andersson’s paper cuts have more in common with painting as a visual art, than with collage’s puncturing of tradition through heterogeneous montages of image and text.
Over the past decade Rozendaal’s artistic practice has included websites, and alongside the lenticular images he presents two installations where abstract animations from the internet are projected against shattered mirror glass. It is hard not to read a symbolic dimension into the shattered mirror glass – associated with a tradition of manual reproduction, of coordination between eye and hand – and the point seems to be to make images containing several layers of abstraction: formal, technological, philosophical, etc. The lenticular images mimic simple gif-animations, while the internet works adapt to the world of the gallery by being awarded the status of unique (and saleable) objects. New connections are established between the computer and the gallery, and Rozendaal’s subject appears to be the light that is reflected, projected, or unilaterally beamed at us from a screen.
Today there is a tendency to take note of artists’ methods and work processes, their ideas and projects, but Andersson and Rozendaal’s images seem primarily to be about what they look like. In Andersson’s case, about the pressed cellulose’s material decay and dissolution in the historical moment when we look back to modernity as the tragic-heroic past of the present; in Rozendaal’s case about the paper’s crisis as an opportunity to rethink abstraction through new material forms, and through cultural and political references set apart from the historical forerunners. Both make a good point from their perspective, but the problem is that the perspectives are not sufficiently dialectical: one is too melancholic, while the other is too relieved of melancholy, too self-consciously futuristic.