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Adrian-Nilsson, Gösta (GAN) (1884-1965)  
 
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Influenced by Dadaist and Cubist experiments with collage, he began to work productively in that medium. Although distinct in style and medium, his collages frequently retain the kaleidoscopic effects of his Expressionist-Futurist-Cubist paintings. For example, the densely packed Dansande Sjömän (Dancing Sailors, 1923-1925) interweaves pictures of ships and industrial products with photos of sailors embracing, dancing, and posing for admirers. The stenciled words might seem to recall the commercial slogans routinely incorporated in Cubist collage. However, upon closer examination, it is apparent that many of the words are common Swedish, English and German male personal names. Adjacent to the large central figure of a sailor, "BERNS" indicates one of GAN's favorite locales for cruising in Stockholm.

In a poster that he created for the last solo exhibition of his work at Der Sturm Gallery in 1922, GAN included a prominent figure of a sailor in the midst of various other organic shapes and industrial objects, including several phallic shaped tools. The name Der Sturm and various other words and phrases are presented in varied directions throughout the composition. The words surrounding the sailor again affirm GAN's own eroticism: JÄRET (heart), HOPP (hope), KÄRLEK (love).

Sponsor Message.

In Paris, GAN became acquainted with Ferdinand Léger, and he was strongly influenced by Léger's conception of a new form of geometric abstract art that would celebrate the industrial world. The impact of Léger is evident in GAN's series of four large paintings entitled Olympiad (1924). In these, GAN utilized brightly colored, simplified geometric shapes for the bodies of athletes. Nevertheless, protrusions in the groin areas of the figures and scattered phallic shapes endow the Olympiad paintings with a forceful homoeroticism, which distinguishes GAN's work from Léger's.

While in Paris, GAN became increasingly interested in abstraction as a vehicle for the expression of spirituality. Written in 1921 and published the following year, his treatise Den Gudomliga Geometrien (Divine Geometry) proclaimed that artists must discover the laws of geometry ruling the universe and utilize these as the basis of all their creative endeavors. His theories had a strong metaphysical basis, and he described art as a mystical endeavor. GAN's theories fostered the development of geometric abstraction in Scandinavian art.

In 1925, he returned to Lund, where he lived until 1931, when he moved back to Stockholm. Between 1925 and 1930, GAN worked in two distinct artistic idioms. On one hand, he worked in a deliberately naïve style of narrative painting, inspired by folk art. On the other hand, he systematically explored the implications of the principles that he laid out in his treatise of 1921 through his production of geometric paintings and sculptures. Although abstract, GAN explained in his diaries that these works could be understood as homoerotic due to the profound inspiration that he derived from his sexuality.

GAN also utilized his geometric style in the sets and costumes which he designed for Swedish Opera's 1928 production of the ballet Krelantems and Eldeling. The modernist composer Moses Pergament wrote his expressionistic musical score of this ballet to complement the effects of GAN's art.

Final Decades

During the 1930s, GAN again changed his artistic manner and developed a distinctive version of Surrealism, into which he incorporated some Cubist elements. GAN's exploration of Surrealism influenced younger Swedish artists, especially those associated with the artists colony at Halmstad. In the 1940s and 1950s, GAN frequently created works in an abstract geometric style, although he also produced landscapes in these decades.

During the final decades of his life, GAN continued to contribute articles to art publications and to exhibit his art, primarily in group shows. However, his work after 1930 generally received less critical attention than his earlier efforts had. Nevertheless, Edvin Andersson offered encouragement to GAN and worked hard to promote interest in his art.

GAN died on March 29, 1965 in the apartment in which he had lived since he moved back to Stockholm in 1931.

Conclusion

Interest in GAN's work has grown steadily since the 1980s. Marking the centenary of GAN's birth, a major retrospective of GAN's work was held in 1984 at Liljevachs Konsthall, Stockholm and at Konsthall, Malmö. Both the exhibition and the accompanying comprehensive catalogue stimulated renewed appreciation of GAN's important role in Swedish modernism.

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