‘Everything flows, nothing stands still’
‘Kunath balances the temper of his art on a knife’s edge between postmodernism and nihilism, and then pushes it further, into a
pictorial consciousness that seems part Fun House, part Las Vegas Rococo and part enquiry into the psycho-dynamics of visual
White Cube is pleased to present ‘I'm Running Out Of World’, an exhibition of new painting and sculpture by the Los Angelesbased,
German artist Friedrich Kunath. This will be Kunath’s second exhibition with the gallery and follows on from his first
solo museum exhibition in the UK at Modern Art Oxford.
Kunath’s work is fluid, operating in the area between consciousness and dreamscape, presenting a world of shifting realities,
where fantasy and reality abruptly collide. His practice develops out of an accretion of objects, culled from both high and
low culture, whose often unexpected meanings and possibilities are developed into a set of characters and objects that
make their appearance – sometimes repetitively – across his painting, installation and sculpture. Michael Bracewell has
described this process as a way to ‘pioneer new hybrids of aesthetic status and cultural anthropology’. It allows for a crossfertilisation
of meaning that is neither ironically post-modern nor simply kitsch but somewhere in-between that is altogether
more allusive and free.
Kunath's new paintings in the lower-ground floor gallery continue this dark strain of surrealism, where a cast of sad and lowbrow
characters seem to float in space, through different spatial dimensions and where slapstick humour, pathos and
metaphoric allegory are explosively combined. In I'm Still Here (2013) an artist looks on at a just completed floor painting of
a larger than life dog, curled up asleep, a motif from other works that has now become monstrous, dominating the space
and a metaphor Kunath’s art, where paintings are finished only at the moment where they seem to take charge.
In the middle of the room a group of frolicking sea otters, native to California where Kunath lives and works, are formed out
of brightly painted ceramic. More akin to a junk store ornament, en masse and oversized, they create a kind of maritime
underworld, dipping into and rising out of the floor as if it were the surface of the sea or a pool of water. Strangely emotive,
they have been given human arms and feet and sport whiskers that have morphed into magnificent handlebar moustaches.
This element, a direct reference to Friedrich Nietzsche, is typical of Kunath since although a small detail - a ‘meaningless
detail of a meaningful person’ – it is charged with the combination of European symbolism and iconic American culture.
This sense of destabilisation, as well as the suggestion of a maritime underworld, continues in Kunath’s ‘Real Realities’
paintings on the ground floor which depict richly coloured sunsets, overlaid with the markings of a standard A4 notepad, as
if the romance of this highly sentimental image has been held in check by the organising principles of office stationary. The
sunsets are sometimes caught behind the familiar postcard staple of a palm tree lined vista while at others, they are
reflected in a perfectly calm sea. In another, a circular image of a Christmas card-like snowy landscape - a binary but
equally idealised landscape - has been inserted on top. While the works point to Kunath's interest in the mechanisms of
popular visual culture, in particular album covers, where collage is the stylistic trigger for a willing suspension of belief, they
also call to mind the notion of a notepad scribbles – where something immediate, spontaneous and unmediated travels from
the imagination to the pen in one continuous flow.
Friedrich Kunath was born in Chemnitz, Germany in 1974 and lives and works in Los Angeles. He has exhibited widely
including solo exhibitions at Aspen Art Museum (2008), Kunsthalle Baden-Baden (2009), Kunstverein Hannover (2009), the
Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2010) and Modern Art Oxford (2013). Group exhibitions include 'Human Nature', Los Angeles
County Museum of Art (2011), 'Life on Mars: the 55th Carnegie International', Pittsburgh (2008), '11th Triennale für
Kleinplastik', Fellbach, Germany (2010) and 'The World is Yours', Palazzo Grassi, Venice (2011).
A fully illustrated publication, In My Room with texts by Michael Bracewell, Ory Dessau, Claire Le Restif and Paul Luckraft will
be available, published by Walther Koenig