The Art of LA Based German born Artist Friedrich Kunath

Friedrich Kunath at Kunstverein Hannover

Friedrich Kunath at Kunstverein Hannover

Friedrich Kunath at Kunstverein Hannover

hijackedaffairs instagram photo and text of John Baldessari at the Friedrich Kunath exhibition at Blum & Poe Los Angeles

“so this happened on saturday…

john baldessari checks out friedrich kunath”


Friedrich Kunath’s exhibition, Lacan’s Haircut, is for me the highlight show of the year in Los Angeles. Gorgeous and delightful use of brilliant color is what I experienced when I first walked into this exhibition. Kunath’s freedom to experiment by overlaying representational images with pure abstraction, and his wonderful, playful fabricated sculptures of giant shoes containing cigarette butts, a giant match, a banana, and other comic elements, was a pure delight. I called other artists to tell them the show was on and that this was a must see exhibition. Also was quite moved by his range of subject matter and the sheer volume of skillfully executed work across several media. Ultimately this was a kunsthalle show in a cavernous LA gallery space that we in LA were fortunate to experience. Looking forward to more amazing shows at Blum & Poe.

Vincent Johnson in Los Angeles.

Two at Night (2012) from the Cosmos suite of paintings by Vincent Johnson in Los Angeles


Friedrich Kunath’s exhibition Lacan’s Haircut at Blum & Poe Los Angeles, 2012


by Friedrich Kunath, shown at Andrea Rosen-

Friedrich Kunath, The tear will love us apart, 2011, photo: Egbert Trogemann
SAMMLUNG OEHMEN »FRIEDRICH KUNATH», Installationsansicht, Kunstsaele Berlin 2010

SAMMLUNG OEHMEN »FRIEDRICH KUNATH», Installationsansicht, Kunstsaele Berlin 2010



When I went to Art Basel Miami last year, I was really let down by what I saw. Maybe its because I already knew a lot of the work, but nothing jumped out at me and just gave me this feeling of surprise, joy, passion, or anxiety that I was looking for. What I am referring to is what I now use as my rule when looking at new work. I remember walking into my first art exhibition 15 years ago, seeing Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns in one room, and Christopher Wool in the other. I was literally trembling, shaking really, and got this rush of energy, of desire and passion. I was struck by what I saw and it started my path of loving art in a matter of seconds.

So now, when I embark on gallery visits and studio tours etc, I always tell myself to NOT look where I am or WHOM I am seeing, but rather, how the work affects me. It is the truest and most natural way to know if a work has an effect on you. I only buy what makes me feel this way.

Back to Miami…as I am walking around, I was bored and a bit frustrated. I already starting thinking about a cigarette and coffee more than art and was actually ready to go back to the hotel and sit by the beach. All of a sudden, I see this painting, a simple arrangement of melancholy elements on what looked like a canvas made to look like a page in a notebook. It was absolutely stunning. I looked at the name and saw Friedrich Kunath, a name I had not heard before although I later found out he was already known. Again, I think it is important to stress that I am pretty damn new at collecting, and am learning daily.

I simply proclaimed that Kunath made Miami for me and ever since, I have been on the hunt to own one.

His work deals with love, despair, desire, longing, melancholy, popular culture, even cheesy imagery and quirky sayings, all of which clearly speak to me. The work is absurdly creative and varied, yet carries a very clear line through it all.  I love, love, love his work and think he is going to be one of the most interesting artists to come out of LA via Germany in a long time. I think he is simply amazing.

A nice summary from his latest show at White Cube, London:

Kunath’s work 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 satirical cartoons, doodles and chocolate-box imagery to passages of text with nuanced word-play. ‘All the sleeves are brown and the tie is grey (California Dreaming)’ (2011) features a sleeping figure sat aboard a ramshackle raft, caught up in a ferocious sea; while above him is written a contorted version of the chorus from the song of the title. In another painting, the hunched figure of the artist trudges into a psychedelic, waterlogged landscape, with droplets of rain in the air clearing in part to reveal the cheerful message ‘Almost Summer’. The lone protagonist makes regular appearances in Kunath’s work, the melancholic ‘everyman’, full of longing for home.

The all encompassing environment created for this exhibition was an attempt to create an improbably utopian world according to Kunath. A series of surreal sculptures served as proxy for the artist. A figure, modelled on Kunath and wearing his clothes, loiters next to a loud speaker, oblivious to the insistent pecking of a bird perched on his nose. A pedestal stands vacant, while the escape of the sculpture that might have stood there is suggested by a series of footprints leading away. A horn-playing banana-man jauntily trots across the space, and an Henry Moore-like sculpture reclines on a day-bed nearby, watching a film that charts a journey simultaneously looking towards the future and back to 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 ‘Pet Shop Sounds’ (2011), in which the Beach Boys seminal album morphs into a pair of bickering love birds. ‘I saw God’s shadow on this world’ (2011), features an expressionistic backdrop that doubles as a parched desert landscape complete with cacti providing shade and respite from the brutal sun. As Kunath himself has noted, his new surroundings have influenced 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 in Los Angeles. He has exhibited widely including solo exhibitions at Aspen Art Museum (2008), Kunsthalle Baden-Baden (2009), Kunstverein Hannover (2009) and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2010). 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) and will exhibit in ‘The World is Yours’, Palazzo Grassi, Venice (2011).

Kunath shows with Blum & Poe and Andrea Rosen



Tuesday’s Art Blog in London

How My Life Looks like in a Room: Friedrich Kunath at the White Cube

If I could create a space to describe how surreally crazy my life has been this past year, (Title: The Travails of a Stubborn Dreamer Immigrant who thinks Europe still has something to offer while all of her friends are now going back to Asia), I´d probably emulate the exhibit of Friedrich Kunath at the White Cube. Just like Friedrich, I´ll make the room a David Lynch meets Buster Keaton dreamscape: paint the walls black, have incense burning and yeah, I will also put a human-sized banana with a trumpet to welcome my visitors. Because just like my laughable absurd sense of optimism and pessimism about life in Europe, my room is a dreamland where tragedy and comedy meets.

As Kunath´s UK solo show, I was fortunate to catch it before it ended last June 4.  The exhibit was a total brand experience in a surreal tragimelancomic utopia: The Most Beautiful World in the World according to Kunath.


I wanted to doze off in one of the sofas  and smoke a Cuban cigar while looking at those vibrant watercoloured artworks that depict  a male figure in the absurdities of over-loneliness, this word scrawled in text in I heard I was in Town.  I like the title of the other work: Let those Days I Don´t Care Begins – because it would be really great if there could be some moments when we can just stop giving a damn about everything and about nothing. Kunath has a penchant for branding his artworks with poweful titles – for example Younger Men Grow Older was a powerful punch  eerily accompanied by a visual black and white portrait of melancholic men pondering the inevitably of aging.

Let those Days I don´t Care Begins by Friedrich Kunath
Let Those Days I don´t Care Begins

Younger Men Grow Older by Friedrich Kunath
Younger Men Grow Older

A German-born American artist, Friedrich Kunath´s exhibit explore themes of loneliness and dream possibilities in this exhibit. In variety of mediums encompassing sculpture, painting and installation, the dark room is unbearably melancomic as it brings a twisted sense of nostalagia of childhood.

Playthings become absurd mementos such as the banana sculpture with its footprints on the carpet; the man with a chair on its head and bird on its nose holding balloons; and a reclining male figure  watching a film while a toy train passes thru its body. The sounds of chirping birds mixed with the smell of incense is Kunath´s nostalgia for that space-moment of  what has been.The central piece of the exhibit was in Almost Summer, a eye-catching piece because of its  vibrant watercolours which is offset by the sad figure of a man holding a luggage. It is what I can call a picture of the summer of discontent.




The Most Beautiful World in the World only exists in the mind. It is a space that acknowledges the purity of a distant past and honours  (albeit with irony), the ambiguous outcome of the present where the most tragic of all tragedies is to be lonely. I am still not yet lonely in Europe (thank God!) but my past life in the Philippines had been brighter.  I feel exactly like Kunath´s One day We will Follow the Birds, where a voice utters, “I didn’t expect to remain the same but I didn’t know what to expect.” But hey, I am still dreaming by the way. One of These Days will End. Bow.

One Day we will Follow the Birds by Friedrich Kunath
One Day we will Follow the Birds

One of These days these days will End

A Report From The Opening Of Friedrich Kunath’s Solo Exhibition At The Kaikai Kiki Gallery

On May 15, Kaikai Kiki Gallery marked the opening of its long awaited solo exhibition for German artist Friedrich Kunath, with the artist present as he unveiled a score of new works for his first ever Asian solo exhibition.

The exhibition is a dream-come-true for Takashi Murakami, who first discovered Kunath’s works at Art Basel in 2008 and began his approach to the artist soon after. On the evening of May 14, the day before the public opening, a reception party was held at the gallery .


The ever cool Friedrich Kunath in front of one of his paintings.
The canvass behind him is huge, measuring as much as 3 meters.


Kunath spraying perfume on one of his works, just before the opening.
“For me, perfume is like an invisible sculpture. With all these different materials
blending together in mid air, the scent is certain to remain in the viewer’s memory.
That’s what art is after all – memory, ” he explained.


Both the gallery and the exhibition itself are divided into two conceptual spaces.
On the walls of the tatami room are fantastical paintings which reflect the artist’s
inner psyche. Though they are stoically conceptual, the pieces also feature a light
and humorous touch. Kunath told us that most of the works were finished before they
were given a title.


From left to right: Tim Blum, owner of Blum & Poe Gallery, Friedrich Kunath,
and Takashi Murakami. Before the reception began, Tim gave us a guided tour of the show for our
UStream channel.


The white-cube area of the gallery felt more similar to a museum with a
lineup of works that was more serious and conceptual. In the center of the
space is a lengthy video piece.


The sculpture at the fore of the photo represents the inner struggle common
to all human beings. The little ones at the rear are Tim’s children.


Happiness and despair, light and darkness, laughter and tears.
This single work combines several contradictory emotions.

We also have several original posters on sale made especially for this exhibition. Only 100 items are available (each with its own edition number) and all are signed by the artist. This is an opportunity you won’t want to miss.


With their ironic titles and texts, Kunath’s works reflect the inner lives of human being and we are certain that they will resonate with Japanese as they have with audiences the world round. The exhibition will remain open until June 12 (Sat.), 2010. We look forward to seeing you at the Kaikai Kiki Gallery.

©Friedrich Kunath 2010. All Right Reserved.
Photos by Masao Sekigawa

Friedrich Kunath
I used to be darker But then I got lighter And then I got dark again

May 15 – June 12, 2010
Hours:11:00 – 19:00
Closing: Sun, Mon

関連記事 (2010.5.13) (2010.3.8)

2012-06-04 11:30:00


Painting: Friedrich Kunath at BQ Berlin

Friedrich Kunath: Mastering Abstract Painting

Friedrich Kunath in his studio. Excerpt. Photo Credit: HAMMER UCLA
Loosen your grip on reality and explore the multi-layered absurdity of Friedrich Kunath’s sixth solo show at BQ. His abstract paintings are amusing and a must-see!


“Come back Romance, all is forgiven.” These words in neon lights draw from the streets all those insects of art, inviting them to lose themselves for hours in Friedrich Kunath’s “Things We Did When We Were Dead” at BQ, a gallery nestled at the far corner of Rosa Luxemburg Platz.

Inside, my sense of reality became skewed. From the canvas’ leapt kaleidoscopic worlds crammed with illustrative absurdities; Pinocchio’s female counterpart sits in a transparent shirt; a figure, half man-half ladybird cries into his hands and the clouds obscure the head of a boy reading a book, high up in the branches of a tree, and other oddities swarm the canvases.

Friedrich Kunath Exhibition at BQ Things we did when we were dead

Friedrich Kunath, Things We Did When We Were Dead. Photo Courtesy of BQ Berlin.

Each work plays host to a rich world of perspectives, creating a multi-dimensional effect; illustrations unite in chaotic disregard of style and content, figures morph at second glance from the background and there is a consistent cloud of seamless colour which floats upon the surface. Step back three paces and the overarching image transforms once again, revealing shapes of maps and skulls.

Dense Yet Refreshing

 The concept of time slipped through my fingers as I travelled fluidly from layer to layer witnessing the themes of death, failure and melancholia. Delving deeper into the wonderful of BQ I found giant matches peering down on me, some with expressions of smug contentedness and others wrought with despair. However, despite the existential questions lingering in the air, Kunath skilfully uses irony to manipulate his work in a way which allows the viewer to consider the exhibition from a surprisingly light perspective. A recurring motif was the human figure dressed as a ghost, his limbs protruding from beneath his white sheet yet his eyes replaced with the characteristic dark voids. Much of the work serves as a reminder of our own mortality, yet this humorous presence kept me in a state of cheerful curiosity.

BQ Friedrich Kunath, “Things We Did When We Were Dead” – April 27th – June 30th 2012. Tuesday – Saturday: 11am – 6pm.



Issue 112 January-February 2008 RSS

Friedrich Kunath

Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York, USA

imageFriedrich Kunath projected a multitude of obscure anxieties in his recent show at Andrea Rosen, but the greatest of all was surely stage fright. There was no stage, as such, only something like a dressing-room: all the objects and images that comprised the show were arranged within this dark, rather domestic diorama (‘Twilight’, 2007), which spread outwards and upwards as though it were only an effect of a long shadow cast by the entrance door at the near end. But one could see how the gallery could be read as a stage, as a space of exposure: it was as though the audience had hushed and Kunath had walked through the door, out of his lair and gone; the lights were on, but the show was over, and we were free to peek at the contents of his hideout, which is also his unconscious – and a very kooky one at that.

All the elements of the show were married exquisitely by ‘Twilight’, yet they were conceived as discrete art works. One construction (Untitled, 2007) consists of a monitor, showing footage of a boat at sea, suspended in a bathtub filled with water. East–West Germany (2007) is a divided wardrobe: one half ornate Victorian, the other functional modern; the two halves join to contain a pile of paintings. Where in the World Are You Now (2007) is also the product of a severance, this time of a piano, though here the whole is remade by a mirror fixed to the severed end. And in another rehearsal of the idea of halves and shadows, there is a table in the shape of a grand piano which supports innumerable framed photographs of the backs of pedestrians’ heads (Untitled, 2007). Other peculiarities included: an elongated stool, its legs being chewed by a stuffed beaver (Untitled, 2007); a high, stepped wooden construction, half of which has been marbleized with coloured paint (Untitled, 2007); and a series of paintings of figures and birds and enclosures like caves. The mood was ghostly, but one sensed that Kunath was not long gone: prominent was a painting, If the Phone Don’t Ring, You’ll Know It’s Me (2007), which depicts a figure whose body is barely visible except for an arm that wields a paintbrush and appears to be painting itself out of the picture.

Critics discussing the work of this young German have often whispered about love and melancholy and impossibility and the absurd, but none has yet called him a Surrealist. I don’t see why: it’s hardly an accusation of derivative redundancy. Indeed, if the success of the US television series Six Feet Under is anything to go by, innumerable stepchildren of the style are still vivid and meaningful. It is the magical avant-garde that Kunath wants to recapture. He wants to be Des Esseintes, secluded in his mansion in Joris-Karl Huysmans’ Against Nature (1884), or Louis Aragon’s avatar, wandering the streets in Paris Peasant (1926). There was, perhaps, a nod to the boulevards in Kunath’s sequence of peculiarly scaled lightbulbs and street lamps – the street lamp tiny and the lightbulb enormous (Untitled, 2006). There was even, maybe, a whiff of the rooftops in his hollow, rectangular construction of bricks (Untitled, 2007), which would be a chimney if it didn’t have a CD stuck half-way out of the mortar.

But then Kunath has no manifesto, no declared Freudian programme, and one is left wondering what all this enjoyable mood-setting might mean. I was thinking about this when I came across an article by Michael Hirschorn in September’s issue of Atlantic Monthly. He described an aesthetic that is ‘an embrace of the odd against the blandly mainstream. It features mannered ingenuousness, an embrace of small moments, narrative randomness …’. Check, check, check, check, I thought, and was surprised. This is ‘quirk’, as Hirschorn defines it, a vein of affected oddity that he sees in Wes Anderson’s films, Augusten Burroughs’ memoirs and some of David Byrne’s music, and which he argues – pushing things somewhat – is ‘the ruling sensibility of Gen-X indie culture’.  The avant-garde may be dead, but many still cherish the notion that artists speak from the margins of ‘ruling sensibilities’. Kunath, at least, does not persuade me that they do.

Morgan Falconer


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