The Hall Art Foundation is pleased to announce an exhibition by German artist, Johannes Kahrs to be held at its Schloss Derneburg location. Kahrs is best known for transforming found images into enigmatic and evocative figurative paintings and drawings. The show will include over 20 works that trace the evolution of his practice over a period of twenty years.
As the starting point for all his paintings and drawings, Kahrs uses photos culled from the mass media, advertisements, film stills, and sometimes images from his own photographic archive. Through the use of various pictorial treatments including shifting tones, blurring, cropping, repositioning, fragmenting and erasing, Kahrs abstracts and ambiguates his subjects, while echoes of the original source image remain visible. Disassociated from their original context, any explicit meaning or narrative connected with each subject is suspended – the viewer is left guessing about what exactly is being portrayed and why.
In works like Therapy (stich) (2004), a close-up view of a male torso is presented. The subject has been “beheaded” out of the composition, and the edges of his body blurred into a deep black ground. Through a shift of perspective, the subject in Untitled (2005) also appears to be headless and out-of-focus. In both paintings, Kahrs renders his figure in a fleshy, carnal, bruise-toned palette. The images are imbued with a raw and intense physicality – a sensation of eroticism is mixed with violence.
The physical interaction between his work and the viewer has been of significant importance to Kahrs. For decades, he framed many of his paintings and drawings behind glass as a way of imposing a barrier between the viewer and the inner world of the picture, while simultaneously allowing the viewer to see themselves reflected in the composition through the glass surface. In works like Silent Depression (1999), Kahrs takes this strategy a step further by painting a rounded black border around the edges of the canvas so that it resembles a television screen. Within the rounded black border is a close-up view of a man’s face shown screaming in pain, terror or anger. The face has been blurred and painted in a brushy way that gives it the effect of a paused video still. In Silent Depression, the viewer is confronted with a powerful portrayal of an intensely psychological moment and is forced to see themselves within it.
Johannes Kahrs was born in Bremen, Germany in 1965. His work has been the subject of numerous solo museum exhibitions including shows held at FRAC Île-de-France, Paris (2016); Kunsthalle Nürnberg, Germany (2014); Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden (2013); Centre PasquArt, Biel (2012); GAMeC, Bergamo (2007); Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art, London (2006); and Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin (2002). His show ‘A-h’ travelled from Kunstverein München, Munich (2001) to FRAC des Pays de la Loire, Carquefou (2001) and S.M.A.K., Ghent (2001). His work is represented in the permanent collections of major museums worldwide including the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Dallas Museum of Art; UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museu Serralves, Porto; SFMoMA, San Francisco; and S.M.A.K., Ghent. Kahrs currently lives and works in Berlin.
Johannes Kahrs is part of Berlin kommt nach Niedersachsen, a series of four exhibitions centered around the works of artists living and working in Berlin. Johannes Kahrs is presented concurrently with solo exhibitions of work by Katharina Grosse, Karl Horst Hödicke and Szene Berlin, a group show including approximately 30 paintings, sculptures, photographs, and videos by over two dozen Berlin-based artists, created from the early 1990s to works completed this year.