Amalie Jakobsen


at Efrain Lopez


Denmark-born, Berlin-based artist Amalie Jakobsen’s metal sculptures bear minor irregularities that contradict the works’ smooth, crisp angles. From a distance, two linked aluminum triangles (all works untitled and dated 2016) appear as sharp as origami and as finished as Minimalist sculpture. The flat surfaces of the two shapes seem to have been brushed with even coats of paint—purple for one, green for the other. Yet closer inspection reveals that Jakobsen has let her acrylic congeal in drips along the triangles’ thin unfinished edges and, in some areas, drool down the flat surfaces. The result is a curious combination of geometric precision and painterly mess.

Eight bright silver forms clustered at the center of the room. Made of aluminum, these slender, hollow rectangular columns bear the traces of bludgeoning: each one collapses into its own unique configuration, crumpled like the paper casing of a drinking straw. Jakobsen attacked each of the prefabricated prisms by rolling a piece of pipe over a segment until it buckled and split at the seams. The sculptures are compelling for these points of rupture; Jakobsen, through the stubborn repetition of a simple gesture, has turned her aluminum pillars into something resembling malleable clay.  

Jakobsen’s show, her first at the gallery, was conceived as an immersive installation. The floor was paved with cut squares of galvanized zinc, which provided her sculptures with support that looked adamantine while also producing ethereal effects. Her crunched aluminum columns seemed to regard their own reflections in the gazing pool of the burnished metal. The sharp edges of twin structures formed from interlocking check marks softened in their mirror images. Between two triangular sculptures that clung to the ceiling like flies ran a slender tube of fluorescent lighting that harshly amplified the room’s sterile atmosphere. But at the other end of the gallery, copious natural light from large picture windows gave the zinc tile qualities of warmth and wear, as the sun showed the scuffed tracks of gallerygoers. 

The balance Jakobsen strikes between prefabricated and hand-hewn, aseptic and organic, proves at once alluring and vexing. Her imperfect-looking sculptures recall the maquettes of an earnest but harried design student. But without their flaws, these forms would not depart in any significant way from the Minimalist and commercial design precedents that inform them. At their strongest, the irregularities function as what Roland Barthes, in his study of photography, called the “punctum,” referring to the visually striking part of an image that opens up the possibility for a direct and personal connection. In the case of Jakobsen’s objects, formal surprises beguile the beholder with the revelation of unexpected material possibilities.