Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Nicolai Howalt and Trine Søndergaard @Silverstein

JTF (just the facts): A total of 35 photographic works, variously framed and matted, and hung against white walls throughout the front room/entry, the main gallery space, and the smaller back room. The show mixes individual works by Nicolai Howalt (14) and Trine Søndergaard (10) and includes collaborations by the two artists together (11). The works span the period from 1997 to 2012. (Installation shots at right.)
Details on the available photographs are as follows:

3 analog c-prints, 17x20 or 26x35, editions of 5+2AP, 1998-1999
3 analog c-print diptychs, each panel 24x19 or 55x47, editions of 3+2AP, 2001
1 digital c-print mounted to aluminum, 71x87, edition of 5+2AP, 2009
1 set 6 digital c-prints, each 26x32, edition of 5+2AP, 2009
4 digital c-prints, each 12x15, editions of 5+1AP, 2010
1 pigment print, 24x29, edition of 5+2AP, 2011
1 digital c-print, 70x61, edition of 5+2AP, 2011


2 analog c-prints, each 19x19, editions of 5+2AP, 1997-2000
1 analog c-print diptych, each panel 19x19, editions of 5+2AP, 2003
1 chromogenic print mounted to dibond, 59x59, edition of 3+2AP, 2008
2 chromogenic prints, each 39x39, editions of 5+2AP, 2008-2009
1 pigment print, 2 digital c-prints, each 23x23, editions of 5+2AP, 2009
1 archival inkjet print, 59x59, edition of 5+2AP, 2012

Howalt and Søndergaard

3 photogravures, each 21x18, editions of 18+2AP, 2005-2010
5 digital c-prints, variously sized from 19x14 to 38x30, editions of 5+2AP, 2007
2 digital c-prints, each 62x78, editions of 3+2AP, 2010
1 silkscreen print, 55x39, edition of 5+2AP, 2012

Comments/Context: It isn't often that a gallery show delivers not one but two mini-sampler career retrospectives, but this exhibit of the work of Nicolai Howalt and Trine Søndergaard does just that, with a selection of their joint collaborations thrown in for good measure. The overall effect is a bit bouncy (given the "one of each" style), but when you step back and sort through which pictures belong to whom, patterns, repeated themes, and visible progressions emerge for both artists. I had the distinct impression that in both cases, their work is getting stronger and more conceptually nuanced with each successive project.

Even a decade later, Howalt's before and after boxers remain sharp and incisive. Angelic young faces become bloodied, sweaty, flushed and exhausted, the boys passing through a ritual trial, emerging roughed up but knowing. The artist's more recent remnants of car crash violence and Danish border landscapes continue this study of edges and transitions, culminating in new nearly abstract images of cremation remains (the ultimate crossing point). What might sound dreary is in fact swirling and textural, with flecks of contrast mixed into the white and black powdery undulations.
Søndergaard's photographs continue an ongoing investigation into the nature of portraiture, considering how cultural identifiers move from past to present and how indirect angles and turned away faces create different kinds of narratives. While her Versus pairings of look alike portraits and sculpture from the Thorvaldsens Museum and her Strude images of young girls obscured by folk costumes begin this line of thinking, her most recent work is even more intriguing. I was particularly engrossed by the elusive darkness in Søndergaard's smart Monochrome Portraits, where sitters recede into enveloping shadowy color; the portraits are simple and straightforward, and yet entirely mysterious and uncertain. And in her Guldnakke series, the young women in ornate traditional bonnets face away, leaving the viewer to revel in the details of embroidery and threading but unable to directly connect the history to the modern world.
Their collaborative work over the years seems to weave their two separate perspectives into one seamless set of ideas. Silhouettes of crumpled birds shot midair, portraits of solitary trees fighting for existence in snow bound high altitudes, and composite scenes of hunting rituals (full of men, dogs, beaters, birds, and snowy forests) all mix portraiture with the fragility of life. Their recent screenprints of the gnarled, tactile forms of a 1500 year old tree continue this thinking, combining the rough texture of layered bark with the enduring puzzle of relentless, persistent growth.

I think what I liked best about this show as the sense that the artists were idea people first, and that their art was an evolving visual manifestation of their experiments with those ideas. I suppose this same thing might be said of all artists to some degree, but for me, there was a very real feeling of tracing their individual/mutual paths of ideas here. The sampler organization of the show provides the photographic bread crumbs to follow, allowing viewers not just to see the fresh, new pictures made recently, but also to place them into a larger, more comprehensive intellectual context.
Collector's POV: The prices in this show span a wide range, seemingly different for every single piece on view. Howalt's works range from $3000 to $30000, while Søndergaard's works range from $6300 to $19100 (with 1 NFS and 1 POR); their collaborations start at $1725 and rise up to $23000. While prints from both of the artists and their partnership have recently found their way into the secondary markets, there have been so few transactions that any kind of historical pattern is difficult to discern. As such, gallery retail likely remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
Transit Hub:
  • Howalt artist site (here)
  • Howalt interview : Lay Flat (here)
  • Søndergaard artist site (here)
  • Søndergaard interview: Ahorn (here)

Through April 13th
535 West 24th Street
New York, NY 10011

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