Friedrich Kunath Tries To "Live Forever" @ Blum and Poe, Tokyo
By: Sasha Bogojev
We're continuing recaps of some great post-summer shows worldwide, like this fantastic Blum and Poe Tokyo debut by LA-based artist Friedrich Kunath. Live Forever marks the 10th exhibition by the German-born artist with the Santa Monica-founded gallery, as well as his return to Japan for the first time since 2016.
"You could argue that shoving paint around at the level that I do is a bit more chaotic, but I was looking for some madness in there. 'Cause with the implied distance of airbrush, I felt a bit disconnected at times. So I was looking for reconnection to painting again." Kunath admitted in a 2018 interview after a year-long hiatus from painting with oils. Nowadays, his practice focuses almost exclusively on layered poetic landscapes fashioned in very traditional painterly techniques. The exhibition includes 12 medium-sized works on canvas and one bronze sculpture portraying the title piece of the show.
As irreverent than ever, Kunath fully utilizes “the aesthetic of Venice beach towel” to make poignant images filled with everyday and relatable feelings. Inspired by the Hudson River School, his work is enkindled in dreamy, exaggerated sunsets, beach, horizons and mountain imagery, which he turns into backdrops for his painted theatrics. Often oversaturated and borderline kitsch, each piece is adorned with characters and visuals from his personal cast, typically ones who somehow wandered onto the set Building a narrative, these visual metaphors are drawn and scrapped into the soft oils or, sometimes, just squeezed straight out of the tube. Finally, they are enhanced by handwritten, personal lines of text, usually cited from a song. These lyrical elements envelop each piece, adding a strong emotional punch to complete the work. It's the connection of universally beautiful and recognizably sublime that becomes a meeting point for contemporary art and kitsch, poetry and painting–or irony and melancholy.