"Scenes from Western Culture / Architecture and Morality"
New York, 531 West 24th Street
Following his highly anticipated first U.S. survey at the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC in October, Icelandic multimedia artist Ragnar Kjartansson arrives in New York, occupying both Chelsea and Bushwick locations of Luhring Augustine, where the artist weaves some of his signature threads into a humorous and contemplative body of work. Coming from a family of actors, Kjartansson has long been fascinated with the thin line between reality and performance. Known for his collaborations with other artists, including Sigur Rós member Kjartan Sveinsson and his own parents, the artist embarks on investigation of contemporary angst from a playful and self-mocking angle, utilizing monotony and repetition as creative outlets.
Unfolding into slow-paced and contemplative experiences over time, Kjartansson’s videos ridicule anxieties and indulgences concerning the modern man, blurring the distinction between real and fake, morbid and cheerful, and reason and absurdity. On view at the gallery’s Chelsea location is Scenes from Western Culture, nine “cinematic paintings” depicting moments from typical upper-middle class Western lifestyle, in which certain rituals such as swimming in a pool, playing in a garden, or dining, evolve into plastic and banal performances of a fixated discourse. Their magazine ad fashions counteract their staged idealized happiness.
Architecture and Morality on the other hand emerges from his two-week residency at the Center for Contemporary Art in Tel Aviv. In line with his mockery-fueled approach to art making, Kjartansson reenacts the stereotype of a “Sunday painter”, hauling his easel and paint out to the nature to paint impressions of his surroundings. Contrary to typical panoramas of blossoming nature, his subject matter in this case is a group of Israeli settlements on the West Bank, one of the most politicized and systematically overlooked territories in the world. The assertive monotony in his videos here transforms into simplicity, prevailing these paintings of otherwise ordinary houses. Built around an ongoing conflict and struggle for basic human rights, these houses, similar to humorous existentialism of Kjartansson’s videos, require viewer engagement and investment to unfold their narratives.
November 5 — December 23, 2016