Johan Berggren Gallery is pleased to present the work of two emerging artists, Zak Kitnick (US) and Fredrik Værslev (NO), in an exhibition curated by Geir Haraldseth (NO). The didactic desire to contrast and compare the work of two different artists is hard to avoid, in particular when the two share a wealth of references and interests, while still differing in methods and ideologies. Both artists have used the physical gallery space as more than just a staging area for the works, as Kitnick tackles the walls and the window of the gallery, and Værslev the terrazzo floor and the carpet. This is not just a simple continuation of concerns raised by artists working with institutional critique, examining and mining the mechanisms of the gallery space and the art world, but a fusing of, and simultaneous critique, of architecture, design, art, and decor.
The first room is directly linked to minimalism and the works echo the concerns of scale and the human body, creating sculptural interactions that also reference a history of painting, both of high and vernacular, and architecture. Kitnick has installed four sets of blinds in relation to the window, creating a sculptural grid that filters the light, obscures the space, and intervenes with the architecture, while Værslev’s three large rectangular paintings all stem from an illusionist insistence on turning the canvas and paint into stone, using methods and techniques that range from Jackson Pollock to graffiti.
The second room continues Værslev’s floor fetish and is made in collaboration with Ståle Vold (NO). The carpet as canvas creates a dialog between Vold and Værslev, once teacher and student, revealing a journey through recent art history, while transforming the idea of the auteur artist into the work of a design team. Kitnick’s fascination with design is revealed in his Donald Judd inspired paintings based on a new design for a brownie tin, making sure to maximize crust. The concept of making life easier through design is examined in the paintings and parallels the idea of progress in painting and art.
The two artists are not timid or discreet about their references or their passions, creating room for questions that reveal more than a mere faithful approach to painting, institutional critique, appropriation, minimalism, or any other art historical trope would. Kitnick and Værslev have an irreverent, yet serious approach to art and the way art is projected and thought of in the world at large, and they brings those ideas and concepts back into the gallery.