Sometimes the most powerful, most special exhibitions emerge outside of a calendar or commercial impetus, celebrating the full potential of art as a need to express and communicate. Friedrich Kunath's Songs Build Little Rooms in Time, currently on view at Chicago's Soccer Club Club, is definitely an example of such exceptional effort.

Organized by Drag City Records in collaboration with Blum & Poe, the exhibition presents a series of paintings based on songs from Purple Mountains. And while the concept of the show sounds straightforward on the surface, in reality, embodies the pure love, endurance, and friendship between Kunath and musician and poet, David Berman, who passed away last year.

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"The nature of the show is somber, as anything derived from the source material of David’s final songs might be—but the playfulness, the romance of sudden discovery penetrating ennui that is central to both Friedrich and David’s work is there, as well. This work casts the contrasts of American life that fascinated David, with high and low values revolving in imperfect accord with the small details and dream-like juxtaposition of inner and outer landscapes that make Kunath’s work its own. All these things (and more that cannot be said here), form the seventeen new works that make Songs Build Little Rooms in Time—a remix album of sorts in the lives of David Berman and Friedrich Kunath." –Drag City Records

The title itself comes from a frequently quoted line from the well-loved Purple Mountains song "Snow is Falling in Manhattan", which blooms into a completely new dimension by Kunath's visualization of Berman's lyrics. Known as a passionate music researcher, it's common for the German-born artist to use song lyrics as source inspiration for his practice, or literally a component of the work itself. Months leading up to the show, the two artists collaborated on this special project that intertwines their creative outputs, creating "an exhibit inspired by Friedrich's art, David's writing and the possibilities that the two artists could imagine between themselves."

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While Kunath dove into a busy schedule of painting and preparing work, Berman was about to head on tour prior to meeting back in Chicago for the show's opening in December. Poignantly, the event took place without Berman's physical presence, but with his spirit soulfully captured and immortalized in Kunath's poetic paintings and a special musical performance by Cassie Berman. On a smaller, intimate scale, this body of work is a culmination of the creative and mutually inspiring relationship that started back in 2012 when the two started working on a book You Owe Me a Feeling. Sasha Bogojev

A reminder for all of us.

Courtesy of the artist, Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo, and Drag City / Soccer Club Club, Chicago
Install photos by David Sampson