Love Letter to Torbjørn Rødland

A white limousine snakes around a 90 degree corner, carved into the side of a steep grass hill. In the distance, telephone wire stretches into the jungle of suburbia.
Torbjørn Rødland, The Curve, 2016. Chromogenic Print. 43 5/16 x 55 1/8 inches. Courtesy of artist.

Norwegian born, LA-based, Torbjørn Rødland’s photographs represent an artist’s confession to their viewer—a prompt to explore a wide range of emotional and intellectual states. By evoking curiosity, humor, criticality, artifice, and an immense respect for the natural world, Rødland conflates multiple truths and lies colliding with and existing within each other. With a restrictive, yet communicative aesthetic similar to Wim Wenders’s Paris, Texas or Baudrilliard’s America, the work offers a perverse yet yearning appeal to the strange beauty of US life and culture.

Liquids dripping onto skin and faces cast in a radiant light invite you to imagine myriad scrupulous and mysterious affairs. Rødland’s pairings of people and objects form a lingering tension—a story unfolding in front of you. His depictions of landscape and people contain an empathetic humanity that is difficult to fake. A painterly, nineteenth-century romanticism derived from academies in Weimar, Germany, is iconized within the hills of Los Angeles. Goethe and Paris Hilton colliding in one explosive yet slippery image. 

In The Curve (2016), a white limousine snakes its way around bent roads heading upward, leading to a sinister and convoluted tableau; an ominous, yet whimsical reality stops moments before revealing itself, confronting the viewer with an absence of resolution. It is within these moments that my fondness for Rødland is strongest—where the mise en scène clings to the spokes of reality, yet the image appears to slip in and out of myth—where reality is suspended and appears through a mirage that questions whether what you saw actually happened.

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Author: Jens Pettersen

Jens Pettersen b. Arendal, Norway, 1998 is a multidisciplinary artist and image maker living in Portland, Oregon. His work alludes to coyness, bumper stickers, highway road signs. Codes and messages for people to see, ways of communication, a cry for help and things that might be hidden in plain sight. Pettersen is a 2021 BFA graduate from Pacific Northwest College of Art. He has exhibited nationally and internationally in solo and group exhibitions at Oregon Contemporary, Portland, OR, Ghost Gallery, Portland, Oregon and Bomuldsfabriken Kunsthall, Arendal Norway.