January 3, 2008

Edith Molnar on Jacob Dahlgren

“I’m afraid we lost our minister”, said with a tone of embarrassment one of the honoured VIP guests of an exhibition opening where Jacob Dahlgren’s “Wonderful World of Abstraction” was on display. After slowly grasping the real meaning of the polite comment the imposing body guards dashed themselves into the shiny cube of silk ribbons and were immediately out of sight, lost in it. All the participants of this rather comic scene were mesmerized by the invitingly tactile promise of the installation by Dahlgren, but were also unaware of its hidden trap.

Dahlgren builds his playful, wonderful world from objects and materials known from everyday life. His objects and installations come into being out of a lament over the quality, variability and amount of the utilised materials, and, in places, lead from the banalistic, through an approach of playfulness and inventiveness, into the sublime.
His works, which consist of gigantic, colorful, space-forming, abstract constructions made from empty yogurt cups, silk threads and mirrors, emanate a liberating lightness. One may be inspired to think of his installation comprised of 900 black and white darts boards, which covered a nearly 100-square meter wall space at the Museum of Norrköping, and which, in terms of grandiosity, was not unlike the above mentioned work with its 32,000 pieces of silk thread, entitled The Wonderful World of Abstraction. While the darts placed in front of the installation, reminiscent of an oscillating op art surface, invited the viewer to engage in an ironising interaction with the piece ( i.e. throwing darts), this gargantuan, glistening cube beckons to the spectator to enter – with promises of playful moments, but not without the risk of losing control, of getting lost in the piece and enduring claustrophobic reactions.

Dahlgren’s works take into account the attributes of the given exhibition space, and assume a direct, fertile relationship with the constructed space in which they appear. Their references are all taken from the great isms of classic modern art; past the genealogy of abstract painting, his oeuvre is replete with quotations from constructivist art, from the strategies of minimal, pop and op art.
Olivia Plender writes: “The first abstract painters sought to push colour into the realms of meaning through the link to social revolution or to the spiritual. But in our pluralistic, post-hierarchical visual culture there is a striking similarity between modernist painting and contemporary product design. By refusing the conventional qualitative distinctions in his choice of materials Jacob Dahlgren examines the contemporary world for signs of abstraction. Like a connoisseur when it comes to recognising Barnett Newman in cheap furniture, an Albers on our plastic mug, or a Baerling in the wallpaper.”

Edith Molnar