Erick Swenson, Ne Plus Ultra (detail), 2010. Acrylic on urethane resin, 17 x 72 x 54 in.

Erick Swenson


Nasher Sculpture Center

The work of Erick Swenson has a visceral appeal. In Scuttle, for instance, a meticulously detailed conch holds the body of a sea snail halted in the midst of its wriggling. At once tongue-like and pudendal, the elongated end of the snail’s body emerges erect, while its broader half wraps around the hard outer shell, squeezing it in a stranglehold. It is an object at the crossroads of life and death, its fleshy presence as entrails turned inside out, succumbing to its own suicidal strangulation. Since “scuttle” is a nautical term that refers to the defensive act of sinking one’s own ship, the snail’s deadly involution of the vulnerable against the protective—the fleshy internal body wrapping itself around the protective carapace—becomes a metaphor for the intense dynamic competition between what Freud called thanatos and eros, the death drive and the libido. Sex, life, and preservation can also be matters of self-destruction. It is no surprise that, with this profound philosophical tension coursing through Swenson’s work, the three pieces in this small show made for a lot of heavy rumination and, more precisely, careful looking. …see the entire review in the print version of April’s Sculpture magazine.