May 31, 2020

Rules of Abstraction
Esther Stocker I Jacob Dahlgren
Collectors Agenda, Vienna
5 – 27 June, 2020

With the juxtaposition of the works of Esther Stocker (*1974, Silandro, Italy) and Jacob Dahlgren (*1970, Stockholm), the exhibition Rules of Abstraction presents two international contemporary positions that deal with geometric forms and color systems.
While Esther Stocker’s Creased Sculptures
and her wall works play with ordered systems
in black and white that are typically characterized by visual disturbances and breaks, the multicolored works of the Biennale artist Jacob Dahlgren continue the tradition of geometric constructivism and the Op Art movement of the 1960s by means of repeated forms borrowed from everyday life. Their performative-media character transfers them into the context of
our present.
An example of this is Jacob Dahlgren’s 14-part series No Stars, But Stripes (2018), in which he ironically offers alternative formal representations of the American flag. These works that are also on show here were preceded by a digital performance on Dahlgren’s Instagram feed: on each
of the posted images, the artist wore a different T-shirt every day. In the performance, both his shirts and the artist himself became works of art in the public space. To wear striped T-shirts in all conceivable situations in life, even at weddings or funerals, is one of Dahlgren’s trademarks
and has often been the starting point for new art projects for the past 20 years.
In her works, Esther Stocker takes a completely different approach to the transfer of abstraction into the sculptural body and spatial experience. She is interested in complex visual systems based on grids. The reduction to black and white grids is characteristic and can be found in her paintings as well as in her installations and spatial interventions, which the artist under- stands as “participatory worlds of perception”.
Behind her seemingly randomly crumpled works there is a certain order that intentionally breaks through the chaos and thus creates exciting irritations. Stocker’s works, which move freely
in space and sometimes even sit in a corner like spiders, pursue the idea of changing our view of the world. By breaking up the geometry of modernist forms, the artist questions the rigidity of existing systems of order. At the same time she challenges the perception of the viewer.
Like Jacob Dahlgren, Esther Stocker belongs
to a generation of contemporary positions that has taken the constructive-geometric tradition
a logical step further and thus arrived at completely new approaches. Whereas Stocker’s artistic forms of abstraction are based on already abstract background knowledge such
as mathematical formulas, Dahlgren develops his works from the observation of the everyday. In his work, with almost obsessive care, ordered pharmaceutical packages become pictures just like geometrically arranged folding rules.
The repetition of the motif plays a decisive role here – similar to Esther Stocker.
In the juxtaposition of these two exciting artistic positions, a unique dialogue develops about the contemporary “rules” of abstraction, insofar as they exist at all.
Text: Dr. Sylvia Metz