Friedrich Kunath’s show at Andrea Rosen brings about a series of considerations about which kind of viewer a top contemporary art gallery might be constructing. This post minimalist exhibition presents itself as a themed park which theme is (precisely) ’the post-minimalist’ art exhibition where the few paintings included treat painting itself as something quotable and, of course, as a source of irony. Images from art history such as Caravaggio’s Narcissus are included as parts of the collage where meaning is not attempted. As in the world of advertising, the iconic power of images is rather used to create sensations.
The press release is one of the most ridiculous pieces of literature that I happened to read in a long time. It starts by saying that:
‘The Temptation To Exist (May Contain Nuts) marks a notable evolution in Friedrich Kunath’s practice into a matured exploration of abstraction, interior sensation, and oppositional relationships that propel emotional experience. On the heels of a comprehensive monograph entitled In My Room, and a series of institutional exhibitions, Andrea Rosen Gallery is delighted to announce Kunath’s fourth solo exhibition with the gallery’.
What is a ‘matured’ exploration? It is at this point that the reader/visitor realises that the show, understood as a series of objects arranged in space, aims at provoking ‘sensations’ of the kind that one experiences as a ‘tourist’. The question is which kind of destination is ‘post-minimalist NY gallery’ and why anyone would go to such a place for the sake of it? I can certainly understand why a Japanese tourist might want to record that image that arouses the experience of ancient awe at the Colosseum. It is more difficult, however, to understand why anyone would want to recreate the experience of ‘recreating the experience’ in an art gallery.
The press release goes on by saying: ‘Inextricably entwining the experience of the ordinary with the sublime, Kunath’s works jump between daydreams and “reality,” painterly surface and psychological interior. Through heightening the artifice and the sincerity of the narrative, both are shown to be essential. Playfully pushing every element to the limit of its emotionality and capacity for meaning, Kunath reveals the deflative qualities of a climax, and simultaneously suggests that certain new truths can be revealed through, as the writer David Berman describes, “knowing which dimension of an uninteresting thing is actually interesting.” The act is an embrace of existence – both vibrant and mundane. An invitation into a perpetual joke’. I think that Andrea Rosen does not know what sublime means which is a historically specific notion conflating fear and beauty. In this case, she uses the term as ‘allusion to Caravaggio’. It is at this point that the viewer sees the intellectual poverty of this whole exercise coming across as childish. Besides, it the shows is supposed to be a tautological themed park, it does not enhance any experience and if it intends to be a post minimalist and post abstract reflection on the state of that kind of art today, it does not say anything relevant about it. What one might wonder is how on earth this show is ‘heightening the artifice and the sincerity of the narrative’. What is ‘the sincerity of the narrative’? What the hell are they talking about?
It is the last paragraph of the press release the one that reveals how this show works and it is indeed an installation which theme is the art gallery when saying that:
‘Within the landscape of the exhibition, one is met first with nostalgia, and then, as though slipping into a fever dream, invited to wander the juxtaposed realms of past and future, elegance and decay, the bucolic and the strange. The images build upon themselves in a layered stream of consciousness driven by the autobiographical, the conceptual and the emotional. Here, elements individually familiar, in unison, now propose a kaleidoscopic view of reality’.
This show is composed by a series of ‘art objects’ placed in an ‘artsy way’ in ‘an art gallery’ to create (according to the press release) the illusion of the art gallery. But what is the point of going to an art gallery to see their efforts in trying to convince us that what they are running is indeed an art gallery? The difference between tautological circularity and stupidity is far too blurry these days. In other words, this show is shit. Just a thought.