Magazine article Artforum International

Torbjorn Vejvi

Magazine article Artforum International

Torbjorn Vejvi

Article excerpt

Why is it that when you're a kid, you can imagine perfect things, but you can't make them, and when you're an adult, you can make perfect things, but you can't play with them? This deep if unlikely question is brought to mind by the work of Torbjorn Vejvi, a twenty-seven-year-old Swedish artist based in Los Angeles.

In a series of small sculptures produced in 1998 and 1999, Vejvi selected pictures from the pages of old National Geographic magazines, and glued them to foamcore, creating complex, three-dimensional objects that treat the images' reality the way a chandelier treats light. Each picture is cut into pieces and reorganized around the shape of a witty architectural model, such that the image splits apart, like child's clothes forced onto an adult's body. This transformation of the picture into sculpture instantiates an investigation of the image, refocusing its dramatic emphasis, modulating its tone, and reshaping even its depicted space--in effect transforming the image into a crime scene, in which its original purpose is simultaneously degraded and magnified in meaning, a la trace evidence. Sometimes the effect is severe, as in Between races, 1998, in which a nondescript shot of jockeys playing pool is weirdly dislocated. At other times, the interest lies in Vejvi's reverence, as in Old house, 1998, where an image of a rickety mansion has been rebuilt as a tiny (somehow flatter) movie set, while the group of people dancing around it meld into the facade as if decorative elements in a mural. Vejvi's genius lies in his ability to translate his emotional response to each image into a unique, diagrammatic form whose empathic yet wary build causes one to think about the ways emotion can be distanced, which, in turn, inspires an unsettling intellectual disquiet.

Vejvi grew up in a remote forest in southern Sweden. One night, his parents took him to the city of Goteborg to see a major theater production. Vejvi was entranced, less by the play itself than by the elaborate sets. He began to build little theaters in his bedroom, first writing plays to justify the sets, and finally designing sets that suggested an accompanying narrative. Encouraged by his parents and teachers, he continued to draw, paint, and make objects without really thinking of himself as an artist. Eventually, he enrolled in the graduate program of one of Sweden's most respected art schools, Malmo Art Academy. At that point, he was painting and making sculptures and short videos, which he began to show in Malmo and Stockholm. In 1997, he was offered the chance to study at UCLA for a year. After he settled in Los Angeles, his work was quickly recognized and championed by local artists, critics, and curators. In a fortuitous coincidence, the LA art community's current, intensive dialogue around formalism's growth potential (through aesthetic decision-making that is less conscious than hallucinogenically intuitive) facilitated the decoding of Vejvi's brilliantly original attempt to turn advanced sculptural notions into workhorses for ideas traditionally relegated to photography and painting, and his success inspired him to remain in Southern California.

Having devoted himself to art at such a young age, and in relative seclusion, he cites few major influences, though painters Sigmar Polke, Luc Tuymans, and Peter Doig are among his favorites. …

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