Nils Stærk , Copenhagen, Denmark
For her first solo show, at the Kirkhoff gallery in 2007, young Danish artist Tove Storch presented a diverse group of conceptually-based sculptural works that involved kinetics, projections and optical trickery. It was a humorous take on the expanded field of sculpture that suggested a promising, productive balance between knowledge of the disciplines’ formal language and a more unruly attitude toward conventions. Her next solo show in Denmark, at Overgaden in 2008, consisted of six box-like floor pieces, all based on a simple wooden structure enclosed in translucent grey silk, indicating that Storch’s work was beginning to tip more toward an investigation of the formal aspects of this equation.
This scale tipped even further in her first solo show at Nils Stærk. Reading like a sequel to the Overgaden exhibition, the show consisted of five objects – each a variation in size and shape on a common sculptural principle. This time Storch made visible the internal structure, now a more industrial-looking stainless steel frame, and stretched transparent blue silk around its sides. Furthermore, through their sizes and their vertically orientated form, the objects more explicitly addressed a human scale. Their distribution in the exhibition space allowed the audience to move among them, viewing one sculpture through the gauzy blue screen of another, perhaps involuntarily creating the sense of an installational whole rather than a series of individual objects – an effect, however, which was most evident and dynamic when the space was populated.
Where the show at Overgaden had a solemn air almost reminiscent of a sanctuary, the exhibition at Nils Stærk generated the cooler, lighter feeling of walking into a standard white cube space. The objects were devoid of references to the familiar world and stood as designed, formal entities that fit seamlessly into the hermetic space of the gallery. The works’ construction suggested an inversion or perhaps a subtle confusion of outside and inside, shape and volume. Yet upon a close encounter with the objects, this conceptual point seemed to recede in favour of the material tension between the hard structures and their soft surfaces. In their integration of the matter-of-fact, industrial steel and the ethereal, painterly qualities of the silk, Storch’s sculptures marked a phenomenological space in which the physical concreteness of things and the abstract visuality of their appearances entered a mutual feedback circuit.
Storch thereby trod an aesthetic field where art-historical references were if not explicit then nevertheless plentiful. Donald Judd’s ‘specific objects’ inevitably came to mind, as did Robert Irwin’s more delicate combinations of material qualities and visual effects, and the sensual spatial politics of Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica, although in a cooler, less political, Nordic version. The ‘body of colour’ that Storch aims to activate is not a body of effects and desires but one that is observed at a philosophical distance. While Storch is firmly aware of the classic Modernist problems of the object that these predecessors introduce, the question remained where exactly she positioned herself in relation to this canon, as well as precisely which new perspectives and challenges she wanted to bring to the discussion.
Then again, maybe that was actually the essence of the show: it presented a stage for a process still in progress, where Storch is working her way through a set of problems that conditions the production of sculptural objects in contemporary art. Seen from this angle, the show was both an uncertain and promising suggestion of what her next show might bring.