Photographer Torbjørn Rødland Arrives in Korea
Sponsored | Galerie Eva Presenhuber
'It seemed early on like my work was less problematic in Asia,' Rødland said ahead of his exhibition in Seoul, presented by Galerie Eva Presenhuber in collaboration with Taxa.
Tørbjorn Rødland, Small Change (2022). Chromogenic print on Kodak Endura paper. 57 x 45 cm. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich / New York / Vienna. © Tørbjorn Rødland.
The show opens at Taxa design studio on Friday 17 March, and consists of 11 analogue photographs.
It's titled Metal Balm, a name that signals Rødland's interest in oppositions—chrome and skin, hard and soft, cutting and soothing.
His photographs, which are carefully staged, are rich in these sorts of contrasts and other retinal pleasures.
In Small Change (2022), for instance, we see the way jeans fray around the belt loop, how skin reddens where it creases, the glint of coins stuffed into the waistband, the intersecting curves of belly and hip, the finely-ribbed texture of a tank top.
The pictures can also conjure moods and imply narratives. A curly-haired infant covered in red paint suggests a miniature murderer caught in the act, while the crescent of light that falls on a backlit stack of eggshells suggests the sunrise over a planet in outer space. These connotations are slippery, though, and yield easily to other ideas.
Rødland creates images where sophistication coexists with crudeness, something Western audiences sometimes struggle with.
'It seemed early on like my work was less problematic in Asia,' Rødland told Ocula Magazine.
'In the Western art world there was something suspicious about a photographic project that was trying to move on from conceptual and critical agendas, but in Japan, China, or Korea those agendas or strategies hadn't dominated art in the last third of the 20th century in the same way.'
'The sensuality of seeing seems to not have fallen out of favour in Asia,' he said.
Rødland was born in Stavanger, Norway, in 1970, and lives and works in Los Angeles.
In 2011, he published Sentences on Photography, which is something of a manifesto named in response to Sol LeWitt's Sentences on Conceptual Art.
It includes '1. The muteness of a photograph matters as much as its ability to speak', and '3. All photography flattens. Objectification is inescapable.' One that is especially indicative of his style is '9. A backlit object is a pregnant object.'
In hindsight, he said, 'I should have named the direction or type of photography I'm advocating for. But I didn't know what to call it. Today I would have titled the text Sentences on Integral Photography, or maybe Sentences on Transconceptual Photography, to thoroughly anchor the dialogue with LeWitt.'
Art writers in search of headlines often latch onto a fragment of Rødland's eighth sentence, 'perversion is bliss', noting how his works employ erotic tropes such as open mouths, kneeling, and fetish gear.
But it's only when you read the whole sentence that you see what's really radical about Rødland's practice. '8. A photograph that refuses to market anything but its own complexities is perverse. Perversion is bliss.' —[O]