Encompassing painting, sculpture, drawing, video and photography, Friedrich Kunath’s work focuses on universal themes of the human condition: love, loss, loneliness, optimism and dejection, all imparted with a tragicomic pathos.
Kunath draws inspiration from sources such as song titles, lyrics and books, along with art historical influences, including Conceptual Art, German Romanticism and Symbolism. His paintings, which freely bestride the idioms of abstraction and representation, are saturated with washes of colour, which are then overlaid with diverse visual references, from line art satirical cartoons, doodles or chocolate-box imagery to passages of text with nuanced word-play. With titles such as ‘Leaving is overrated’, ‘I may not always love you’ and ‘Bureau of Sad Endings’, the work strikes a balance between irony and desolation.
For a number of recent exhibitions, Kunath has created all-encompassing, multi-media environments. Some of the works feature characters who serve as substitutes for the artist – sculptural figures modelled on his own body, or paintings with a melancholic ‘everyman’, full of longing for home. In ‘The tear will love us apart’, a Modernist reclining sculpture lies on a day-bed watching a film that charts a journey simultaneously looking towards and future and back to the past; filmed from the front of a train moving forward through a bucolic landscape and overlaid with a ghostly image of a figure repeatedly hitting a tennis ball against a wall emblazoned with the slogan ‘The Past’. Absurdist in content, a sense of faux nostalgia permeates the scene.
Kunath relocated a number of years ago from his native Germany to Los Angeles, and the tropes of Californian counter-culture provides source material for works such as ‘California Dreaming’ in which a sleeping figure lies aboard a ramshackle raft caught up in a ferocious sea; above him a contorted chorus from the song of the title: ‘All the sleeves are brown, and the tie is grey’. In ‘Pet Shop Sounds’, the Beach Boys seminal album morphs into a pair of bickering love birds. ‘I saw God's shadow on this world’, features an expressionistic backdrop that doubles as a parched desert landscape, complete with a series of cacti providing shade and respite from the brutal sun. As Kunath himself has noted, his new surroundings have borne influence on the work: ‘I guess the colours got brighter and the topics got darker. Sunshine and Noir’.
Friedrich Kunath was born in Chemnitz, Germany in 1974 and lives and works in Los Angeles. He has exhibited widely including solo exhibitions at; Aspen Art Museum (2008), Kunsthalle Baden-Baden (2009); Kunstverein Hannover (2009); the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2010); White Cube Hoxton Square, London (2011); Sprengel Museum, Hannover (2013); Modern Art Oxford (2013); White Cube Mason’s Yard, London (2013); Centre d’art contemporain d’Ivry – le Crédac, Paris (2014); Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn, New York (2014) and Kunsthalle Bremerhaven, Germany (2014). Group exhibitions include; ‘Human Nature’, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2011); ‘Life on Mars: the 55th Carnegie International’, Pittsburgh (2008); ‘11th Triennale für Kleinplastik’, Fellbach, Germany (2010); ‘The World is Yours’, Palazzo Grassi, Venice (2011); ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’, Saatchi Gallery, London (2011); ‘Orchestra Change’ Siftung Schloss Dyck, Juechen, Germany (2012) and ‘Fire!’, Venus Over Manhattan, New York (2014).