Kristján Guðmundsson is considered one of Iceland’s most well-known contemporary artists. A pioneer of Icelandic conceptual art, he played a vital role in the short-lived but enormously influential avant-garde movement called SÚM, which radically challenged and ultimately transformed the understanding of art-making in Iceland in the late 1960s and early 1970s. His artworks can be described as minimalist or conceptual, concise and clear. They explore issues of time, nature, and art in a very direct and often humorous or playful way.
The exhibition at Safn Berlin introduces early works by the artist that can be considered milestones in Guðmundsson’s career and his overall understanding of art and material. Part of the exhibition title refers to a work series from the 1970s, “Cause and Consequence”, in which Guðmundsson went through numerous possibilities of cause and consequence within geometric line structures.
Also in the 70s, the artist began to experiment with drawing, although he did not do so in the conventional sense. By expanding his drawings to the three-dimensional, he pushed the limits of the medium while at the same time denying its decisive two-dimensional quality. The act of drawing was replaced by arranging industrially produced materials, such as pencil leads and entire rolls of paper. Guðmundsson’s drawings, or his "lines and objects", were independent of the paper or any other surface and became their own inherent support.
Also on display are various artist books, in which Guðmundsson refers to both natural and artistic phenomena, again within the context of the inevitable law of cause and consequence.
For the artist book “Punktar” (“Periods”, 1972), for example, Guðmundsson selected periods from a book of poems by Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness and enlarged them 1500 times. In doing so, the artist examines the concepts and imagery of “poetry” and literary principles of structure and process. Like many other early works by the artist, his books often have a strong reference to the literary culture of Iceland.
Kristján Guðmundsson was born 1941 in Snæfellsnes, Iceland. He lives and works in Reykjavik. Solo exhibitions include: National Gallery of Iceland (2009), Safn Reykjavik (2007), Reykjavik Art Museum (2001), Albrecht Dürer Gesellschaft, Nürnberg (1994), Städtisches Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach (1993), Kunsthalle Rostock (1993), American Scandinavian Foundation, New York (1986); group exhibitions include: Boden Arts Center (2013), MOCA Los Angeles (2012), Haus der Kunst, München (2012), Reykjavik Art Museum (2011), Heidelberger Kunstverein (2008). He was the 2010 recipient of the Carnegie Art Award.
In a separate room, Safn Berlin presents another minimalist yet very different approach to drawing by artist Donald Judd (1928-1994, Missouri, USA), a pioneer of American Minimal Art. These drawings, which are dominated by variations of colourful and geometric patterns, are typical of the late work of the artist.
Curated by Katharina Wendler.