The Journal Gallery in Williamsburg is presenting Norwegian artist Ida Ekblad’s first U.S. solo exhibition, Salty Sap Green Black, which opened just days before Europäisch-Amerikanische Freundschaft, a three-person show at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise. Ekblad’s work in the two shows, though markedly different, is certainly supplementary. Ironically, it is only her sizable sculptures that are on view at the Journal Gallery, a tiny space on North 1st Street, while Gavin Brown’s immense Greenwich Street space in Manhattan includes her paintings alongside her sculpture.
Salty Sap Green Black consists of nine “Gold Bug Drifts,” sculptural works based upon – and literally made out of – given cities. Each drift is composed of concrete and found objects foraged in and around New York City. Rockaway Beach and the Brooklyn Navy Yard provided most of the finds. Ekblad derived the title of the collection, as well as the process itself, from Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, The Gold Bug, in which the narrator and the protagonist, both typically Gothic, are bitten by a golden scarab and thus infected with a feverish mania for cryptology and treasure-hunting.
Each location-specific drift pays tribute to Ekblad’s process of rummaging and combing. The ends and the means are inextricable, and Ekblad herself is undeniably present in every work. In each sculpture, posed ensemble is both a measured aesthetic and a perceptible freneticism. Neon plastic trash is violently secured in a cement vessel, but not without a piece of handsome driftwood or elegantly bent metal piping to provide a bit of equilibrium. The beautiful and the wretched are paid identical respect, and the suspension of both together produces not only a visual harmony but an insistent message.
While it is Ekblad’s own discerning taste that supplies the materials for the drifts, the geographical constraints of scavenging certainly determine what is in fact available to her. Just as an individual drift does indeed represent the culmination of a day-long search, it is also a sort of monument to chance. Luck and intent, together at last.