Emily Sundblad’s painted works are light, refined, joyful and modest. Using the techniques of gouache, ink, oils, pastels or watercolours, she records moments of daily life or events that mark her existence. A stay at the Colony Hotel enforced by the advent of Hurricane Sandy and a weekend at the Kentucky Derby were the inspirations for her most outstanding series. Sundblad is also a gallerist, singer, performer and, in general, a radiant yet also discreet presence in today’s art world. By endorsing these different roles, she succeeds in giving them new appeal while also eluding being defined by them. Reena Spraulings — a gallery on the Lower East Side of New York that she runs with artist John Kelsey — is a place of freedom and encounters where experiences of all kinds are possible, and artists like Matias Faldbakken, Klara Lidén, Alex Israel and Seth Price are able to show their most accomplished projects. Her singing recitals and performances provide the opportunity for friendships to be struck up with musicians like Pete Drungle and Matt Sweeney, or other artists like Juliana Huxtable. She interprets their texts or classic punk and rock songs that she adapts to classical melodies. As a painter, she also works with Jutta Koether and John Kelsey under the name Reena Spraulings.
The exhibition of her work at Xavier Hufkens is a story of friendship, art, admiration and sisterhood. Conceived as a tribute, it contains portraits of the artist Charline von Heyl that Emily Sundblad produced all along 2016. Von Heyl is an impassioned painter who has battled to win a place in the very masculine world of German and American abstract painting. Engaged entirely in her medium, von Heyl has devoted her life to reinventing it. Sundblad, who restricts herself to more classic techniques and reveals different facets of herself in different artistic personalities, here displays her admiration for the determination of her friend. The exhibition can perhaps also be considered a mirror that reflects what the two artists share in common. Both northern Europeans who emigrated to New York, they each arouse the fascination of their peers and exercise a benevolent yet exacting influence on the artists by whom they are surrounded. Persuaded that the art world is a place of suffering and splendour, constraint and freedom, they are among those rare artists that still embody a little of that modern spirit by which artists are supposed to lead exemplary and independent lives.
– curated by Anne Pontégnie
Xavier Hufkens (press release)