sunnudagur, janúar 29, 2006

listasafn reykjavíkur

Today was a classic rainy Reykjavík Sunday, about the gloomiest weather R-town could put on in our advancing stage of brightening. I dropped E off to meet her friends, drove the loop down Laugavegur, and ended up at the city art museum, Listasafn Reykjavíkur. I hadn't ever been there, except for the time I snuck into and roadied for a Sigur Rós concert, and so this was the first time I had gone there in its usual capacity. The museum is housed in Hafnarhúsið, the old Harbor House for the city, built in the 1930s. Inside it's a slick renovation to rough-hewn art-museum style, with exposed concrete and welded-steel stairways and glassy balconies overlooking tall open spaces. At the end of the building, huge squares of glass frame the harbor view outside, which today was Iceland's giant fishing ship Engey. It's a little like Iceland's seafaring answer to Mass MoCA.

By far the best of the exhibits (and the first I saw) was a large spread on Iceland's own Guðmundur Guðmundsson, a.k.a. ERRÓ, a.k.a. FERRÓ. This particular exhibit was from his days of being called FERRÓ, apparently, which were his growing up in Kirkjubæjarklaustur, painting pontoon airplanes landing in the sea and nearby mountains, going all the way up through his time spent studying in Italy and Oslo. It was fascinating to watch the evolution of an artist for the first 25 years of his art, as he was learning and exploring, trying on different styles to see which fit best. Some of the best parts of the exhibit were the large quotes on the walls next to some of the works, his words on the rigors of study in letters sent back to his father in faraway Iceland.

There's nothing quite like having a vast exhibit space almost entirely to yourself. I found it peaceful there strolling among the white walls and stark works and hearing the chatter of the coffee-shop workers around the corner.

The second exhibit I saw was by photographer John Coplans. It was so disturbing as to leave me dashing for the next room. And that room had even more Coplans. Basically ole JC (and he was old!) became really enamored of the idea of taking photos of odd slices of his spotty old-man body, and then framing pairs of these body slices in odd combinations, to make fleshy black/white puppet-shapes out of say, a pair of hands joined with a pair of thighs, or a cropped half-in-frame old-man knee. It was artfully done, and really showed off the old body, but I pretty much get everything I saw on an average workaday visit to Laugardalslaug.

Rounding off the upstairs trio was a large room dedicated to work by Icelandic artist Kristín Halldórsdóttir Eyfells. She had spent many years painting blown-up closeup portraits of both famous people and anonymous women. But the catch was that the portraits were in psychedelic colors, and especially around the eyes took on an almost aural aspect. So you'd have Reagan, say, or Madeline Albright, and from far away they'd look pretty normal. But then close-up their faces would have deep texture rendered in crazy combos of rainbow colors.

The fourth thing I saw was really one of the most immersive pieces of art I have experienced, by artist Gabríela Friðriksdóttir. Going into the exhibit was like entering a dark brown cavern that smelled strongly earthy, and in the cavern-space four videos were playing in separate rooms, or walled-off areas. On the walls were drawings and on the floors around the video screens were pieces of art from the movies, so that it felt as though I was in the movie sets themselves. Music carried jarringly from each movie, and the musical pieces (composed in part by our very own Björk Guðmundsdóttir) intermixed in strange and atonal ways. One of the movies was a mummified creature struggling to escape its tattered bonds, and screaming occasionally. That was shown on a TV set in a haystack. Another showed an eyeless cave-creature who seemed to be partially made of mud passing strange chipmunk-shaped packages up to a top-hatted man by hanging them on the end of his cane. The most frightening of the movies, showing a kind of bizarro dinner party, was off in its own room in back. I couldn't watch it for long, the images of a one-eyed bass player and man bleeding from his mouth were especially haunting.

After the art on Iceland's bleeding edge, it was good to step back out into the rainy Sunday afternoon and catch the fresh wind blowing in off the harbor.


Anonymous Nafnlaus said...

I once saw John Coplan's work (believe it or not!) when he was still alive in 2002 at the Howard Yezerski Gallery in Boston. I went there as a TA for a photo class and this was in my last year before completing the program with my MFA. :( He got about 40 thumbs down. We were SO disappointed. But hey, we were a big group of extremely analytical young photographers, dying to see new and exciting work. His was just a ...hmm. Magda Campos Pons who was showing there at around the same time, has fabulous work, I LOVED hers!

Anyhow, Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the last thing a photographer wants to do, is view other photographers work and become sadly disappointed. And what was this critic Olafur Gislason going on about. Those 'art historians/art critics' always think they can tell us what to think of a piece.

On the other hand though, Gabriela Fridriksdottir's work looks and seems EXTREMELY exciting! Hers I would LOVE to see and experience. It reminds me of many of the shows I've seen at the Lizt Gallery at MIT in Cambridge. They truly KNOW their stuff there, what to show and what not.

I'd rather show at the Lizt at MIT, than ever at the Yezerski on Newbury street.

But Man, those of reading this and living in Reykjavik, check out Gabrielas work!!!!
Big HUGE thumbs up


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