The Barbican Art Gallery presents the first ever UK survey of the work of the internationally acclaimed Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson. The exhibition explores the wide range of Kjartansson’s work and brings together a variety of influences including film, music, literature, opera music and contemporary pop culture.
The first part of the exhibition is a recreation of the acclaimed Take me here by the Dishwasher: Memorial for a Marriage (2014) , 10 male guitarists in various poses are spread throughout the lower gallery, singing and strumming their guitars against a projected soft focus love scene acted by Kjartansson’s parents. Kjartansson creates a bohemian 70s scene that is based on when his parents met when actors working on a film.
Also on the lower gallery is Kjartansson’s celebrated video installation, The Visitors (2012) which comprises of a series of nine life-size video tableaux of a musical performance staged at historic Rokeby Farm in Upstate New York, shot in one take, each musician was recorded in a separate room of the home or on the grounds of Rokeby, singing the same refrain ‘once again I fall into my feminine ways’ for just over an hour.
Moving upstairs in the gallery is more video installations that explore Icelandic life and many feature Kjartansson in a variety of roles from foot soldier to a Hollywood crooner.
For the first time in the UK, Kjartansson’s series of 144 paintings, The End (2009), made over a 6-month period during the Venice Biennale, are on display. Kjartansson paints the portrait of the same young model, day after day, drinking and smoking which once again blurs the distinction between real life and art.
Whilst best known for his video installations, drawing and painting are an essential part of Kjartansson’s work practice and the exhibition includes a selection of his sketchbooks and watercolour paintings.
It is perhaps because Ragnar Kjartansson background is in the theatre that make his performances, video installations and paintings seem like mini dramas where humour often provides a release from the mundane aspects of real life. His storytelling takes him into unusual territories illustrated by a new work entitled Second Movement (2016) which features two women in Edwardian costume rowing a boat and embracing in a never-ending kiss that will take place on the Barbican Lakeside every Saturday and Sunday, between 1–4pm, weather permitting.
This interesting and entertaining exhibition allows visitors to enter the often bizarre and mundane world of Ragnar Kjartansson. It is these extremes that seem to reflect the artist’s personality who is happy to create scenes from other times and places. Whilst Ragnar Kjartansson may not widely known in the UK, this exhibition will provide an opportunity for visitors to consider his often humorous and offbeat view of the world.
Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended
If you would like further information or book tickets, visit the Barbican website here
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