Magazine article Artforum International

Oyvind Fahlstrom: Feigen Contemporary. (New York)

Magazine article Artforum International

Oyvind Fahlstrom: Feigen Contemporary. (New York)

Article excerpt

"Supertotalitarianism to preserve the world for the rich and powerful few..."; "Become bourgeois or else (US style)"; "BOOM for Whom?" It appears that Oyvind Fahlstrom has been reading the news. But no: The puckish and prolific painter, filmmaker, writer, and documentarian died in 1976 at the age of forty-seven. Born in Brazil and raised there and in Sweden, Fahlstrom was unabashedly political, exuberantly absurd, and dauntingly prolific. He was at the forefront of the Concrete Poetry movement, something of an expert on Surrealist compositional techniques, and a pioneer in the use of both comic-book imagery and portraits of culturally charged figures like Chairman Mao (predating Lichtenstein and Warhol). Loopy, colorful, verbally and visually dense, the two-part exhibition featured approximately forty prints and multiples from the Bank One Art Collection as well as eleven rare drawings and paintings. Though the work on view represented only a fraction of Fahlstrom's output, it functioned as a primer for the career of an artist who--because of an early death, a radical, polymorphous oeuv re, or simply capricious history biding its time--is not yet considered the titan he should be, at least in American art circles.

An article by Fahlstrom on "The Comics as an Art" appeared in a Swedish newspaper in 1954; in 1957, references to MAD Magazine began appearing in his work. In 1969, while he was researching Surrealist automatism, Mayan codices, and Cagean compositional procedures, a trip to Los Angeles introduced him to the drawings of R. Crumb and Zap Comix. These discoveries show up in Fahlstrom's prints, which buzz with a crowded, stickin'-it-to-the-Man kind of energy while achieving a multilayered and harmonious visual flow.

With images based on jigsaw puzzles, dollar bills, and pie charts throughout, it's easy to see why Fahlstrom's work gets lumped under the rubric of Pop. …

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