Cocaine, Champagne, The Grim Reaper, and More at V1 Gallery’s CHART Fair Booth

As the denizens of the Scandinavian art world descend on Denmark for CHART Art Fair, Copenhagen’s own V1 Gallery will showcase a sampling of its diverse roster, with works by Shane Bradford, Rose Eken, Wes Lang, and Thomas Øvlisen. While each artist varies in medium and artistic practice, all convey provocative, contemporary pop themes in their work. Ranging from the miniature sculptures of crushed beer cans and cigarette butts by Eken, to the tattoo-like drawings of the Grim Reaper by Lang, the works on view present an intriguing portrayal of popular culture and societal commentary. 

Øvlisen, a native of Denmark, combines automobile and enamel paints to create a layered blend of color and pattern, often times leaving paint drips still visible and oozing from the sides of his sculptures. At V1 Gallery’s booth, he presents six cube sculptures that balance on their corners. Exhibited in a circle, the cubes have a similar, slightly varying name, such as FALLING FEELING REPEAT REPEAT (2014), or REPEAT REPEAT FALLING FEELING (2014). The textured works are a contrast to the typically glossy finish of automobiles—rough on the surface and splattered with various paint colors. 

The second Danish artist presented at V1 Gallery is Eken, a sculptor who creates miniature representations of vices out of glazed paper clay. Carlsberg Ashtray (2014), for example, comes complete with the snuffed out ends of cigarettes. Other sculptures depict lighters, a bottle of bubbly in Veuve Clicquot Champagne (2014), and a cocaine addict’s favorite tools in Mirror and Coke with Euro Note (2014). Eken is inspired by music culture and the debauchery that comes with it. At the age of 16, she got a job in a theater as a stage and lighting technician for underground and punk bands in Copenhagen. The objects and garbage left after events inside these venues intrigued her, and eventually found their way into her work. 

American artist Wes Lang also creates reinterpretations of contemporary culture; the gallery exhibits his illustrative Grim Reaper drawings depicting the angel of death with his menacing scythe. In his youth, Lang worked at a tattoo shop and its influence is still visible in his works. Many of his pieces are narrative, incorporating American iconography such as flags, cowboys, and skulls. Though the reaper is an ominous figure, the imagery in his works are not meant to be cynical. “It’s not dark at all,” he has said. “It’s all a celebration of being alive and doing what you can, while you can.” 

Newlin Tillotson 

Visit V1 Gallery at CHART | Art Fair 2014, Copenhagen, Aug. 29th–31st.