Presented at its New York exhibition space, JTT Gallery has tapped Los Angeles-based artist Friedrich Kunath for All Your Fears Trapped Inside, a solo show documenting the artist’s ongoing experimentation with modes of understanding and collective memory, articulated through collections of material and his own works. Kunath, known for frequently mixing modes and working between a wide range of materials and approaches, has here settled on large-scale installation as the framework around which to explore the materiality and meaning within his own life.
Nestled into a corner of the gallery is a focused installation—sentimental objects collected by Kunath over the past twenty years, arranged neatly into a small room that also includes a simple bed, shelving, a writing desk and a television. It’s a home of sorts, compiling up a set of objects that have moved in and out of Kunath’s life over the course of his forty-five years. The shelves of the room are lined with photos, records, and even small works, among them a small statuette of a boy that reads “I wish I could say what I feel”, as well as car keys, tennis balls and other ephemera. These are contrasted with pages torn from magazines, sheet music, and paintings completed by the artist over the last half of his life. The compiled objects are presented haphazardly, arranged with a sense of personal resonance rather than any easily readable chronological reason. Yet some degree of internal motivation does seem to pervade the show. An Alcoholics Anonymous book sits by the bed, while the paintings and other elements give the work something of a funereal quality, particularly the television in the room, which plays a loop of nearly all of the video work Kunath has produced over the course of his life. Its as if the artist had closed the door on this room, containing much of his earlier life.
This reading seems particularly resonant when considering the show’s included viewer. On the floor of the gallery sitting just outside of this small room a bronze statue of a half naked man reclines on the floor, gazing towards it. His head is encased in a bird cage, the door to which is open. On the man’s head sits a bird, indifferent to its freedom. The image it conjures seems to hover in a strange balance with the amassed objects just a few week away, as if the simple metaphorical resonance of this sculpture relies on the sheer materiality of the rest of the show. For Kunath, this open cage door seems to ask if a total departure is possible, if the artist is maybe capable of stepping beyond the trappings of his life to either begin again or perhaps move into some new state of freedom or personal liberation. It isn’t the slow progression of his career through bodies of work in chronological order, but it is a tender exposure of where he once lived, what he once wore, that he has loved, what he has read, what he has believed and the notion that who he has been is not who he still is. Compiling all of this context, one must ask not only if the artist’s character is capable of breaking free, but perhaps if the viewer themselves can do the same.
The show closes April 14th.
— D. Creahan
Freidrich Kunath: All Your Fears Trapped Inside [Exhibition Page]