Johanna Gustafsson Fürst, The Burgher I, 2010, detail
The works by Gustafsson Fürst revolve around the materialisation of political content and the representation of policies. In a sober activist spirit her work departs from found objects and obtainable materials, perpetually exploring and reworking into sculptural language. The works embrace and fortify the materials, which constitute the investigations inherent in her practice, thus flexing a discourse on the consensus of how aesthetics, content and communication are staged as a presence in society.
Gallery Niklas Belenius is proud to present Johanna Gustafsson Fürst's second solo exhibition The Fall. The exhibition consists of a series of sculptures from a new project, as a starting point: two classical works which pay homage to the heroic deeds of six men, the sculpture series by Auguste Rodin The Burghers of Calais (1888) and the photograph Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima (one of the worlds most reproduced images) by Joe Rosenthal (1945). Gustafsson Fürst draws on these stories, not only on what they communicate but also on the events surrounding their creation. The works generate political coordinates while manifesting images of the political.
When the city of Calais commissioned Rodin to create a commemorating sculpture to the rich burgher, who was the first to sacrifice himself, in order to halt the English siege of the city in 1348, he chose to portray all six burghers, who as a group, surrendered to the enemy. He also insisted on a modest and low base so that the sculpture would be level with the viewer and he opted to reproduce 11 copies of the work, which were subsequently placed around the world. In Candida Höfer's work Twelve (2000) all reproductions are photographed by the artist, as a means to focus on how the sculptures generate a complexity of content to a specific site, for example, how discrepancies in plinth height inform its reading. Rodin's choice of representation, at the time, had radical conceptual undertones, revealing a critical reflection and understanding of both heroicness and sculpture. It suggested a liberation of sculpture from architecture and placing it in the space itself, with the people.
In both the Iwo Jima photograph and in The Burghers of Calais an essential duality is depicted as the seemingly humble burgher who goes to meet his death is also privileged enough to be able to choose to act selflessly, thus the opportunity to become a hero. But is this perhaps even an obligation? What constitutes an act of heroism today? The sculptures by Gustafsson Fürst stages the slow decay of the western worlds secular traditions as well as the gradual dismantling of past ideologies, simultaneously she examines the social conditions for carrying out heroic deeds and the possibility to create new types of heroes.
Text by Diana Kaur
Johanna Gustafsson Fürst (1973) studied at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm and currently lives and works in Stockholm.
Selected solo exhibitions: Seedbed II Konsthuset, Uppsala (2010), Seedbed I Kalmar Konstmuseum, Kalmar (2010), Lost Counter Story, Neither Man of Science Nor Man of Faith Galleri Niklas Belenius, Stockholm (2008), Gustafsson Fürst has also participated in several group shows including Off The Wall Gustavsbergs Konsthall (2010), Henhel-Hippo Hippolyte gallery, Helsinki (2010), Acute Melancholia Studio 44, Stockholm (2010), Cambio, Change, Weshsel Rosendals Garden, Stockholm (2009), List&Àst&List Nordic house, Reykavik (2009), Rumstering Bonniers konsthall, Stockholm (2009).