Norwegian master photographer Tom Sandberg’s first solo exhibition in the United States — on view at P.S.1 MoMA — made me feel like I was walking on air. That’s my groundling’s take on what one expert, Yngve Kvistad, describes as the “ambiguous surfaces that do not quite reveal themselves” in Sandberg’s large-format, often painterly, black & white photographs. It’s not just in the “titanic, almost monochrome skyscapes” that there’s “an invigorating presence of visual paradoxes” or a “tangible absence revealed.” It’s in the portraits, too. They show what Derrida called the “invisible interior of poetic freedom,” Kvistad notes. I’ll leave the technical terms to the experts and philosophers. Here’s what the Sandberg exhibit did for me: It turned my eyeballs into flotation devices.
Postscript: Speaking of a “tangible absence” … A sense of the enormous scale of Sandberg’s work is missing from the skyscape sampled above. Without that scale, you don’t really feel the true impact of his photographs. So here’s a snapshot from the exhibition to give you some perspective. The skyscape behind me, “Untitled,” is one of Sandberg’s latest. It was made in 2006.
Suggested title from an ol’ glider pilot: “Hang Time.”