The Things I Notice Now: Friedrich Kunath @ Travesia Cuatro CDMX
There is a moment in everyone's life when we realize our general perception has changed, and this universal feeling of coming of age is the core of Friedrich Kunath's first solo show at Travesia Cuatro CDMX. The Things I Notice Now opened back at the end of April, coinciding with the ZonaMaco Art Contermoraneo fair, presenting the German artist's beautifully playful and sensitive mind to the local audience.
Just a couple of days before opening his solo show with Tim Van Laere in Antwerp, Belgium, Spanish-based Travesia Cuatro had opened this important showcase by the LA-based artist in the capital of Mexico. The arresting presentation provides a poetic and elegant insight into men's emotional side, through a series of witty, humorous, and relatably empathetic paintings, sculptures, and installations. Playing with the scales, perspectives, and existing architectural elements, but also utilizing his ever growing lexicon of symbols, texts, imagery, and aesthetics, Kunath is continuously building inviting, intriguing, and exciting work which culminates in irony, humor, self pity, and colossal amounts of melancholy. Featuring both older examples, such as the series of 10 drawings It’s Either You And Me (2016), depicting the petal plucking game, or the bronze sculpture Live Forever (2019) with animated pine trees holding branches together, the exhibition is still dominated by the series of new paintings. And with some of them in dialogue with one another or amplified with sculptural elements (Our Chance or All The Answers Are Within You, both 2021), these heavily textured oils are time capsules of sorts, capturing the artist's journey with their signature nods to German Romanticism and Hudson River School, as well as a variety of references to popular culture, cartoons, or commercial illustration.
Kunath seems to be immensely enjoying putting the spotlight on all the conflicting emotions and observations of a "middle-aged man." Fully willing to accept his position and continuously question or make fun of the feelings that come along with it, he is capable of transforming those concerns into appealing and captivating visuals. Using an assortment of iconic popular culture references, elements of kitch aesthetics, and stimulating excerpts from song lyrics, the conspicuous metaphors unfold depending on the viewers' will to engage with them. The heavily multilayered paintings can be enjoyed for their luscious landscape scenery, for the unexpecting presence of cartoon characters or other familiar subjects, or can be experienced as a complex entity. And whether enjoyed as a whole or being attracted by their succinct elements, these paintings tend to get stuck in your head just as the catchy chorus or an entire song can. So, a snowman texting on his phone in You Won’t Believe Where I Am (2021), a lonesome traveler admiring the monumental scenery in Wednesday Is Taco Day (2021), or the colorful sunbrellas floating above the ocean in Cancel Everything (2021), are merely obvious baits to the bigger narrative in which humor dissolves into sadness and dark jokes bloom into universal truths. –Sasha Bogojev