Power Has a Fragrance

June 25th – September 11th 2011
Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel

With his art Gardar Eide Einarsson examines fundamental structures of social conflicts in modern societies based on the interplay between authority and rebellion. He focuses on expressions of power, on control and suppression, on methods and manifestations of sub- and countercultures, as well as on individual people who gained international renown as dictators, terrorists or mass murderers.

While Einarsson’s preferred artistic media are very varied, ranging from painting and graphic art, to installation, sculpture, ready-made objects and flags, to film and photography, their formal and visual appearance is very reduced. Minimal Art and the conceptual art of the 1960s and 70s are clearly his art-historical references. Einarsson continues the aims of these movements by linking simple, plain form with weighty content that opens up several levels. The artist’s motifs consist of fragments, excerpts from texts, pictures or films, as well as coats of arms, signs and symbols, which he enlarges to give them special significance. The sources of these motifs come from everyday life and popular media such as the Internet, films and literature, including comics. Thus, viewers find in his work suspended speech bubbles with no body next to them, and statements in the form of graffiti or neon writing taken from popular car stickers. This formal minimalism is visually underpinned by the frequently occurring opposition between black and white, particularly in the artist’s paintings. The geometric shapes with plain iconography turn out to be heraldic signs (Untitled (Family Crest), 2008), details from book cover motifs (The Meaning of Limited War, 2010 and Caligula (Incitatus), 2010) or sketches of violent crimes, such as that of the so-called Oklahoma Bomber, who set off a bomb in front of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 (Untitled (Barrels), 2006).

With his artistic method of precisely and carefully choosing a detail, an excerpt, or a fragment, Gardar Eide Einarsson shows himself to be a conscientious researcher of social (mis)relationships and of the frequent criminal phenomena resulting from them. Attentive und thoughtful, but with straightforward logical consistency, he presents themes that give viewers food for thought and that open up complex facets. For example, the powerful neon sculpture Caligula (2010) radiates bright letters into the space. After viewers decipher the name of the famous Roman emperor and tyrant, they find out that the work was modelled on the neon writing of a Mexican striptease club.

In his solo exhibition Power Has a Fragrance, Gardar Eide Einarsson creates a scenario that illustrates social conflicts between individuals and the societies in which they live and that focuses on authority and alienation, in whose context feelings of fear and paranoia are embedded. Paintings and a number of graphic works and prints interact with sculptures, lightboxes and neon writing, as well as spacious installations. In addition to these works from the artist’s most recent work phase, Einarsson is producing a new billboard installation specifically for the Kassel show. The large number of works in the installation is expressly conceived as a unit, so that the focus is not on the individual works but on the interplay between them. Therefore the exhibition can also be viewed as a collage whose fragments overlay and supplement one another, creating new layers of connections. Power Has a Fragrance does not deal with an explicit social system, but rather makes use of diverse events and phenomena that have attained global import and impact. Thus, Einarsson engages with the USA and Japan – the artist’s living environments – as well as the most recent battles on the streets of Bangkok.

The exhibition travelled from the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art in Oslo (2010) to the Reykjavik Art Museum (2010) and the Bonniers Konsthall in Stockholm (2011), before opening at the Kunsthalle Fridericianum on June 24, 2011. The show is redesigned at each venue.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue.


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