6 june – 20 oktober 2013
There is something very elemental about Iceland, and also about Icelandic art, certainly the art included in this exhibition. While this art may, at times, look minimal, it is also important to understand the context. While Minimalism began in the U.S. and Europe in the early 1960s, in Iceland it began as a comprehensive attitude in 874 when Ingólfur Arnarsson, the first settler, arrived in what now is Reykjavik, and chose to make his future in that particular, remote and especially elemental location: sky, sea, mountains and lava fields stretching in all directions.
He had a brother-in-law named Hjörleifur Hródmarsson, his de facto neighbor, who settled a hundred or so miles downthe coast at Myrdalssandur (and was, alas, murdered by his Irish slaves who felt mistreated). At Myrdalssandur there is a huge black beach, the ocean, a high plateau surrounded by cliffs and nearby, the Myrdalsjökull glacier, which you can see from the beach and which sometimes releases tons of glacial debris in an instant downhill flood that obliterates everything in its path: this is a profoundly elemental site. Living close to and with the elements has characterized Icelandic culture since its inception, and has deeply influenced Icelandic art. Moreover, while this art may not be “about” Iceland, Iceland in some measure is in the work, and in the consciousness that produced the work: a homeland on the mind that informs and energizes each artist’s deep inquiry.
The exhibition is curated by Gregory Volk, assisting curator Birta Gudjonsdottir.
More information can be found in the Folder (available only in Swedish).
Olafur Eliasson (b.1967,lives in Berlin and Copenhagen). With its stark beauty, raw geologic power, and captivating natural phenomena, volcanic Iceland has long been both subject and muse for Olafur Eliasson, whose parents are Icelandic, although he was born and raised in Copenhagen. Eliasson began exhibiting in the early to mid-1990s and was quickly acclaimed for his sculptures, installations, and photographs focusing on nature, light, color, perception, reflection, architecture, and optical effects.
Lawrence Weiner (U.S., b. 1942) “Art is about material objects,” Lawrence Weiner once declared in a 1989 interview, which is an interesting assertion from an artist who has largely been working with language since the late 1960s, and is widely known as the foremost figure of conceptual art.
Kría Brekkan (Iceland, b. 1982) Musician, singer, sound artist and visual artist Kría Brekkan, aka Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir is a virtuosomulti-instrumentalist, a riveting vocalist with an enchantingsoprano voice and with her twin sister Gyda, a former mainstay of the renowned Icelandic band múm.
Birgir Andrésson (Iceland, 1955-2007) Had he left his small home country to make his career in a more visible location, it is likely that Birgir Andrésson – one of the top and most exceptional Icelandic artists of the past several decades – would be much better known internationally, yet his decision to stay makes perfect sense. Iceland was much more than his home. It was also his muse; the subject of much of his work; an endless source of inquiry and inspiration; a culture, history and special landscape that he absorbed and responded to in eclectic works spanning paintings, sculptures, drawings, texts and photographs.
Hrafnhildur Arnardottir (Iceland, b. 1969, lives in New York) is most known for sculptures involving artificial hair, which deal with issues of adornment, vanity, transformation, and enticement, and which have brought her considerable acclaim, including the Nordic Award in Textiles (2011) and the Prince Eugen Medal for outstanding artistic achievement (2011) bestowed by the king of Sweden
Hildur Bjarnadóttir (Iceland, b. 1969) With a background in textiles dating back to her early childhood, Hildur Bjarnadóttir is adept at, and knowledgeable about, traditional Icelandic handcrafts including knitting, sewing, weaving, crocheting and embroidery, in a country where such handcrafts have a deep history. This is most unusual for an accomplished contemporary artist. Bjarnadóttir works with many of the same materials and employs many of the same techniques that were familiar to her mother, grand-mother, great-grandmother and other relatives through the ages.
Margrét H. Blöndal (Iceland, b. 1970) has an unusual way of working. Rather than bringing artworks to an exhibition space and installing them, she typically spends a lot of time in the space, thinking of its possibilities and absorbing its spirit.
Maria Friberg (Sweden, b. 1966) is a prominent photographer and video artist who has exhibited extensively in Sweden and internationally.
Kristján Gudmundsson (Iceland, b. 1941) was one of the principal figures in the short-lived but deeply influential, movement of progressive artists called SÚM, which radically challenged and ultimately renewed Icelandic art in the late 1960s and early 1970s, opening it to fresh, international ideas.
Roni Horn (U.S., b. 1955) With sculptures, photographs, various works incorporating texts, site-specific installations, books and exquisite drawings, Roni Horn is among the foremost artists of her generation and a major force both in the U.S. and internationally.
Joan Jonas (U.S., b. 1936) Leading back to crucial earlier works such as her influential video Vertical Roll (1972) and her likewise acclaimed mixed media performance Organic Honey’s Visual Telepathy (1972), Joan Jonas has long been and remains one of the foremost practitioners of video and performance art. Among the most innovative, visionary and meaningful artists of a spectacular generation that emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Jonas has also pioneered an especially combinatory art that melds video, live performance, sculpture, drawing and music that is often launched by a particular text, or rather Jonas’s special meditation on that text
Tumi Magnússon (Iceland, b. 1957) Tumi Magnússon has been extolled for his vivid, intelligent, often times refreshingly eccentric paintings and more recently for his painting-like photographs and videos
Ragna Róbertsdóttir (Iceland, b. 1945) Rather than making works about the Icelandic landscape, Ragna Róbertsdóttir quite literally ushers that landscape, including lava — a prime element of her volcanic homeland — directly into her work.
Karin Sander (Germany, b. 1957) Rather than introducing autonomous artworks into a space, Karin Sander often utilizes, reimagines and decisively transforms quotidian things which are already there; including basic elements like walls, wallpaper, floors and windows, as well as routine activities associated with the space. For her renowned wall polishings, which have been accomplished at many different sites throughout the world, Sander sands and polishes rectangular forms directly into the surface of a wall.
Roman Signer (Switzerland, b. 1938) Since the mid-1970s, Roman Signer has been engaged in a radical and idiosyncratic variation on sculptures per se.
Ívar Valgardsson (Iceland, b. 1954) In 2011 I curated the exhibition Three Parts Whole at i8 Gallery in Reykjavik, which featured sculptures by Ívar Valgardsson. These included a large, ungainly, yet oddly elegant paper ball, painted deep blue, that suggested a big rock, lavachunk, and magnified version of a crumpled piece of paper.