Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Long Live the Large Family by Carl Johan de Geer

The accomplishments of Carl Johan de Geer are far and wide. Photographer, filmmaker, painter, musician, television show creator, novelist, silk screen artist, textile designer, editor of the counter-cultural mag Puss (Kiss) and general outspoken critic of political and social elites. Never heard of him? That isn't uncommon apparently. A week ago I hadn't either.

Geer's book of photographs from 1980 Med Kameran Som Tröst (The Camera as Consolation) looks like one of the undiscovered greats of Scandinavian photography. Four photos to a page - life laid out in quadrants. A new 'zine-style publication from Dashwood Books and the Boo-Hooray Gallery called Long Live the Large Family gives a sense of his extended family from the mid-60s and the early 70s with a similar flavor.

Geer was born into one of Sweden's most powerful families but in the late-50s he started to work against his privilege within the subculture of Sweden's underground art community. His bohemian friends in Stockholm became his camera's subject as they rallied against the status quo with political critiques and sexual openness.

His "style" is that of a quick-handed snapshot. I wouldn't go as far as saying these are great photos individually but together they weave a tone as free and pleasurable as the idea of youth itself. This is not the bitter tears of Nan Goldin twenty years before with the needle and the damage done but a Leftist romp embracing creativity and exuberance among friends. It all has the spirit of change about to happen instead of the capitulation of self medication.

Long Live the Family is a 40 page, staple bound 'zine printed on heavy paper. Its printing isn't perfect but that would be missing the point. It remains as immediate and non-conformist as the subject requires. The reproductions were made from four image panels which make up photo collages he created for a 1979 exhibition at the MoMA in Stockholm. Long Live the Large Family was published in an edition of 250 copies.

For those of you in NYC, check out the exhibition at Boo-Hooray c/o Steven Kasher Gallery at 521 West 23rd street between 10th and 11th avenues. There will be a closing party this Saturday from 6-8pm. Go and check out Carl Johan's books on display, a small archive from Puss magazine, material from the Galleri Karlsson, and the great political silk screen posters that line the walls. Beer and sandwiches have been mentioned.