Smoke and Shadows: The Secret Worlds of Photographer Albert Grøndahl

Danish photographer Albert Grøndahl is interested in everything subconscious. Grøndahl, who often visits exotic locations, meets and befriends strangers as a way to confront and play with the boundaries between public and private. Grøndahl’s practice incorporates the people he meets; he gradually encourages them to open up and share places of special meaning, be it a cultural designation or a private hideaway. At Exhibit No. 9 in Asbury Park, a new solo exhibition of photos and collages by Grøndahl, titled “Bayou,” will explore the many ways in which the artist makes connections between new locations and people and his own inner world.

Many of Grøndahl’s black-and-white photographs include smoke or fog, and many of the faces of people he has photographed are blurred, turned, or cropped out of the shot. These visual elements are cues that create a secret history, and are a part of this sentimental and private world Grøndahl is creating. One photograph, Mount Meru, shows a trail of smoke in front of a few fern plants, but nothing else. Is the viewer to believe that Grøndahl is photographing a path for the viewer or a warning? In another, Marion, Arles, a blurred figure’s head is turned to look at a stone building, perhaps a part of the Roman arena ruins of Arles. The viewer is unable to discern the identity of the figure, but he or she is a part of the abstract narrative Grøndahl is developing. The tale darkens in one of Grøndahl’s photo collages, Talking to Trees, Note 17. Among rows of photographs of tangled tree roots and another of a woman standing in a clearing are shots of human skulls buried in the dirt. The viewer is simultaneously intrigued and uncomfortable, as if this were the start of a grisly horror film. Though it may not follow a clear chronological order, Grøndahl has succeeded in creating a story of thrill and suspense.

Haniya Rae

Bayou” is on view at Exhibit No. 9 in Asbury Park, New Jersey, through Nov. 12, 2014.

Follow Exhibit No. 9 on Artsy.

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