The new and newer bodies of work shown by Marie Karlberg and Lena Henke at Vilma Gold are provocatively ‘feminine’. Less on display, though, is their recourse to a determined, hypostasized anger. I’m not sure the duo would say so themselves; after all, are girls – is anyone – allowed to admit to anger anymore? And would such an anti-productive disclosure preclude activity?
The femininity in question is not the perpetual fecundity in nuce of a Venus of Willendorf, which may nonetheless be invoked by the bulbous, vulvar motifs of Henke’s hoof-like sculptures; there is a certainly a displaced repression in their Freudian — Anna’s — nod to girls’ horses. There is some trash, too: the way the city washes itself.
Neither is such ‘femininity’ enclosed by the flatness and washing-way of another contemporary vulgate: the figuration of post-authentic selfhood. Karlberg’s twenty Ikea mirrors are embossed with graphics – of the renaissance motif of Death and the Maiden; or of the artist’s naked body, if it can still be said to be hers. In these mirrors, strolling as through a salon, we glimpse in passing Henke’s urban obelisks, which recall physical dividers of personal space in those areas that are private/public (Starbucks). These have a surprising effect of domesticized, solid tar.
Is there a gradually ossifying fontanel on view? Karlberg’s flush, inflamed series of watercolors is a bestiary of men and monsters depicting states of corporeal derangement. Charged, Boccaccian, grotesque, odalisque, these tableaux New-yorkais are neutralized in part, though, by their cool mounting on black rubber, then packaged in turn in a gelatinous transparent plastic. ‘Are you – Nobody – too?’; ‘Who’s the Bosch here?’
Is it impudent to mention the prickly empathy of a nail salon? Yes. Then again one speaks of mirrors with an impunity that is the hallmark of sterilization. Some tubes are tied. Karlberg and Henke’s works are dual, and speak to conjoined hair, Rosemarie and a metaphorology of cloven hoofs. Leaving the room, or evading the discussion, the cigarette-smoking viewer is delivered back to his solipsism, speaking on Bluetooth or shouting at himself.