Artists: Friedrich Kunath, David Altmejd
Kunsthal KAdE showed two special solo exhibitions in the fall of 2016 featuring work by Canadian sculptor David Altmejd (1974) and German painter Friedrich Kunath (1974). Under the umbrella title "Self-Fiction," Altmejd showed his sculptures on the first floor of the art hall and Kunath is creating a total installation on the upper floor with paintings, neons, a number of objects and videos. Work by Friedrich Kunath was previously on display at Kunsthal KAdE in the exhibition "MärklinWorld" in 2012. David Altmejd broke through internationally in 2007 with a large-scale presentation in the Canadian pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Friedrich Kunath participated in the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh (the American counterpart of Documenta) in 2008. Both artists have had solo exhibitions in renowned museums and galleries around the world in recent years.
The overarching title "Self-Fiction" refers to the nature of the work of both Altmejd and Kunath. Both put themselves into their work, but also manage to abstract enough to create "fictions" that are accessible and interpretable to all. The fictional self-portrait that the two artists offer us is thus both a personal story and a universal "truth.
David Altmejd's work consists of three groups: figure pieces - from man-sized to giant - in a variety of materials and appearances, "heads" set on poles and architectural constructions ranging from perspex "display cases" to minimalist platforms on which a variety of objects are displayed as a "landscape.
David Altmejd's visual language is comprehensive. For his animal-man-figuration he draws on fairy tales, but also on his own "lucid dreams" or nightmares; he is literary and narrative, but also pseudo-scientific; he is earthly and esoteric, he analyzes and falsifies; he is intimate, but at the same time elusive. David Altmejd's work is highly metaphorical in character. The figures look like beings from another universe. Half man, half animal, part god, part fable. Many of Altmejd's figures are hollowed out, harboring cave-like openings, as if the body were a landscape (with which the artist refers to myths and legends in which landscape elements are named as human-like forms).
Altmejd's objects are literally and figuratively a mirror. Literally through the many pieces of mirror incorporated into his work, constantly confronting the viewer with himself. Often this reflection is fragmented, both by breaking up the mirror surface into small pieces and by chopping into the mirrors, creating cracks and holes. In a figurative sense, Altmejd's figures are like an alter-ego for the viewer, so loaded with associative symbolism that they naturally challenge interpretation; an interpretation that will always color differently due to the viewer's specific frame of reference.
In the ambiguous way David Altmejd approaches his subjects - which, in fact, are always about life, death, transformation and "energy" - the Canadian meets his German co-exhibitor Friedrich Kunath.
With Kunath, ambiguity is core to the oeuvre. A joke is paired with desire, the idiom of kitsch merges with the canon of art history, the make-believe world of Los Angeles and Hollywood meets German philosophy, and the subculture of soft popular music goes hand in hand with the posh world of woozy perfumes. Friedrich's stratification is expressed concretely in the paintings with motifs and fragments of text juxtaposed or overlapping against a landscape background; vistas in which a setting sun or rainbow (the clichés of romantic longing) often figure.
The world of Kunath is a potpourri. Absurd, psychedelic, full of humor and serious. In almost every work there is a palpable sense that the world is a theater of unfulfilled dreams, in which the rawness of life is escaped through the parallel universe of popular culture. With the "axis" (or hinge) being Romanticism, around which everything revolves. From Caspar David Friedrich - the champion of painting awe-inspiring nature - to Frederic E. Church, who belonged to the Hudson River School, the mid-19th century painting group that sublimated the American landscape.
Kunath's paintings manifest the urge to grasp life, while at the same time realizing that this is impossible. In the German's oeuvre, life is a permanently failing utopia. However, this tragi-comedy is never pessimistic in tone. Irony and melancholy merge into a joyful vocabulary, with a new, glorious, sunset always on the horizon.