Pop in Transit - Barbro Östlihn
- Annika Öhrner
One trajectory of the interconnections between Pop Art and Europe, refers to the American avant-garde art imported to Sweden as a result of the foundation of Moderna Museet in 1958 and the museum's early presentations of Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and American Pop art. Many of the shows continued to other venues internationally, and were important for the dissemination of American Pop in Northern Europe. Through the Art in Motion show (1961), vital contacts at a personal level were also established between f.e. Robert Rauschenberg and other artists from the emerging new art scene in New York on the one hand, and young Swedish artists like Öyvind FahlstrÖm, P.O. Ultvedt and Barbro Östlihn, on the other. From these presentations and these new networks, the migration of Pop went two ways over the Atlantic, and resulted in intriguing receptions and disseminations.
This paper discusses the work of Barbro Östlihn (1930-1995) who produced a painterly work in New York where she arrived in 1961, moving into Rauschenberg's former studio at 128, Front Street on the southern tip of Manhattan together with her husband FahlstrÖm. Her representations of urban structures in large, flat, pop-related paintings from 1961-1976, will be discussed as a result both of her physical position at lower Manhattan, an urban space in intense gentrification, of her network within and influence from the core of American Pop Art, as well as of her situation in a certain social space: a neo-avantgarde in transit between U.S. and Europe.
Her gendered position in the divided studio at Front street with it's immanent history, as well as in the Art World of the time, can be interestingly contrasted to her later reception in Sweden and her place in the Art Historical narrations about the development of Post Second World War art. By following the trajectory, an addition to the wider picture of European reception of Pop, and Pop's dependent on the European Art scene, can be drawn, not the least as regard to theories of reception and of “spaces of play".
Annika Öhrner is presently a post doc researcher at Department of Art History, Uppsala university.
Among her publications are the book Barbro Östlihn och New York. Konstens rum och mÖjligheter, [Barbro Östlihn and New York: The space and possibilites of art], GÖteborg & Stockholm: Makadam, 2010, which is also her dissertation; “Recalling Pelican: On P.O. Ultvedt, Robert Rauschenberg and Two "Ballets"", Konsthistorisk tidskrift /Journal of Art History: Rauschenberg and Sweden, Routledge, 2007, issue 76, p. 27-39; "Moderna Museet in Stockholm. The Museum and the Avant-Garde", Nordisk avantgardehistorik, III (eds. Tania Ørum & Marianne Ping Huang) Amsterdam & New York: Rodopi, forthcoming and "Painting Manhattan in the Era of Pop - Barbro Östlihn", Sid Sachs & Kalliopi Minioudaki (red.) Seductive Subversion, Women Pop Artists 1958-1968, Philadelphia, London & New York: Abbeville Press Publishers, 2010, s. 194 – 199. Annika Öhrner has produced several exhibitions, among them retrospectives of Meret Oppenheim (2004) and Siri Derkert (2011) for Moderna Museet in Stockholm, as an independent curator.