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Öyvind Fahlström - Artists - Venus Over Manhattan

Portrait of Öyvind Fahlström. Photo by Jack Mitchell.

Öyvind Fahlström’s (b. 1928, São Paulo, Brazil) oeuvre is largely characterized by its remarkable diversity, leaving behind a prodigious body of work that encompasses major contributions to painting, sculpture, drawing, poetry, criticism, journalism, and performance. Fahlström is oft associated with the emergence of Pop art in Europe and the United States. Formally elaborate and rigorously innovative, Fahlström’s work in all media is bound by a desire to enlist the viewer’s active participation, a desire reflected in his early work in concrete poetry, his later variable paintings and sculptures, and his abiding interest in the rules and structures of games. Born in São Paulo to Scandinavian parents in 1928, Fahlström was sent to visit relatives in Sweden in 1939, but the outbreak of World War II prevented his return home to Brazil.

Fahlström spent his young adult life in Stockholm, where he finished school, became a frequent contributor to the Swedish press, began making art, and published the first defense of concrete poetry. In 1961, the young artist received a grant from the American-Scandinavian Foundation to live in New York, and he moved into a studio formerly occupied by Robert Rauschenberg at 128 Front Street, a building where Jasper Johns still lived. Closely associated with Rauschenberg and Johns, as well as Claes Oldenburg, Billy Klüver, and other artists associated with E.A.T., Fahlström participated in 9 Evenings: Theater and Engineering with an elaborate multimedia performance titled Kisses Sweeter than Wine. Another famed performance of Fahlström’s is the Mao-Hope March (1966) in which the artist, his wife, and several artist friends march down Fifth Avenue with placards variously depicting Bob Hope and Mao Tse-Tung. Fahlström’s enduringly created work that through a mix of humor, surrealism and acuity unveiled the absurdities of modern society. Fahlström lived and worked in Stockholm, Rome, Paris, and New York before his death in Stockholm in 1976 at the age of 47.

His work has been the subject of numerous solo presentation both stateside and abroad, including exhibitions at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), North Adams; BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead; Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA); Centro Studi sull’arte Fondazione Ragghianti – Complesso monumentale di San Micheletto, Lucca; Institute d’Art Contemporain, Villeurbanne; Norrköpings Konstmuseum; the University of Illinois at Chicago; Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne; IVAM/Centre Julio González, Valencia; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam; Centre Pompidou, Paris; and Moderna Museet, Stockholm. Fahlström’s work is frequently featured in major group exhibitions, including recent presentations at Kunstverein Hamburg; the Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Ludwig Forum Aachen; MUMOK, Vienna; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Pérez Art Museum, Miami; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The 32nd Bienal de São Paulo; Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA); Tate Modern, London; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and Museo Nacional de Centro Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid. In 1966, Fahlström represented Sweden at the Biennale di Venezia. His work was included in documenta IV, VI, and X. Fahlström’s work is held in numerous public collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago; The Bronx Museum of the Arts; the Brooklyn Museum; Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk; Museo Nacional de Centro Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA); The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.


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