“Don’t Know What Shape I’m In”

Danish Artist Carl Emil Jacobsen’s US Solo Debut Stuns New York

Accustomed to exploring form and color in his works, Danish sculptor and designer Carl Emil Jacobsen has landed in New York with his first solo show in the United States with an ambitious declaration of intent. The exhibition, entitled Don’t Know What Shape I’m In and on display at the Patrick Parrish Gallery in TriBeCa, New York City, probes the “embedded potentials within forms and materials,” according to curator Henriette Noermark. The result, she adds, culminates in a “series of bold, textural and non-referential objects.”

#DenmarkInNY met with Jacobsen on the sidelines of his opening night to discuss the artist’s inspirations, drive and work process. And, above all, what it feels like to exhibit on the global stage of New York City.

How did your art career begin and how does it now feel to open your first solo exhibition in the US?

I have a background as a designer from the Design School in Kolding where I graduated in 2012. I have subsequently had my own practice and work as a teacher. My career started right after an exhibition in Copenhagen at the annual CHART art fair at Kunsthal Charlottenborg. Here, I was part of an up-and-coming area that was curated by Henriette Noermark — the same curator that I have worked with for the exhibition here in NY. It’s a great experience to exhibit in the US and especially in NY — a center for modern art.

What are your influences and inspirations? Which artists do you look to for inspiration?

I think inspiration arises in a large blend of many different elements on a more or less unconscious level. Of course, I have some of the main themes I am aware of such as color schemes, materials, sculpture theory, literature, archeology, but I think that they are equally mixed with impressions from the daily environment, such as road work on the way to the workshop, the renovation of an old house, or memories of childhood. By artists who have inspired me, I can mention Willy Ørskov, who, in particular, with his sculpture theories has had a great influence on my work. Another artist is the American-Japanese sculptor and designer Isamu Noguchi, who in a very poetic way manages to work across sculpture, design and landscape architecture.

Your work is, in part, defined by the variety of materials you engage with. How do you work and use the different materials?

Yes, I consider my practice as material and process driven. It is especially in the experiments with the different materials that I find my expression. One example is the color project I have worked on the last years. Color research started as an attempt to create a site-specific and anchored color scheme. I experienced a dissonance between the landscape I was inspired by and the colors that were available in my practice. The industrially produced colors I could handle were too uniform. Therefore, I began to develop color pigments from the raw materials available around my studio. I collected stones from fields and beaches, went out to the cliffs of Mors and Bulbjerg and found old bricks from demolished buildings. The colors are now part of the exhibition at the Patrick Parrish Gallery.

Do you feel that American audiences are different to Danish ones when it comes to aesthetic sensibilities?

It is hard to come up with some general considerations as I have only experienced NY so far and it is truly a city composed of many different nationalities and cultures. But precisely that’s why NY is also an exciting place to exhibit when I get a lot of different reactions to the works and experience new angles or aspects that I did not even think about. In my work, I am very interested in scale and how objects relate to the body’s proportions and it is really striking how everything is even bigger in the United States. Just maybe, therefore, I think my works were so well received because they come with different sensibilities and sensitivity in terms and colors.

If you had carte blanche and an unlimited budget to produce a New York themed art work, what would it be?

While I exhibited in NY, I visited Dia:Beacon. It was a huge experience that gave a whole new perspective on American art. It makes such sense that the big minimalist artists are from NY, a fresh start where references to antiquity and all of Europe’s art history are not so important anymore to experience a work, here are the XL works in fluorescent tubes, rolled steel and cropped Cadillacs that are being used. A dream project could be in dialogue with the place and the works there.

Emma Petrine Søgaard Jensen is Culture Intern at Denmark In NY.

The Official Medium Blog for the Consulate General of Denmark in New York. For all things Danish, #DenmarkInNY.