Q & A with Artist Friedrich Kunath

The artist in his studio.

This interview was conducted by electronic mail. Questions were composed by the Hammer's multimedia fellow Sasha Mann. Look for more information on Friedrich Kunath's Hammer Project here.

SM: Where does the text in your work come from?

FK: Mostly it's a mix of fractions from books, poems and lyrics, where I add or subtract some words in order to reach another higher or lower sense. Sometimes it's just a word flying around the room and all I had to do was catch it.

SM: Can you talk about the contrast between the bright, psychedelic washes of color and the stark silhouettes of the figures?

FK: I don't really know where that comes from and I'm trying hard not to find out. Maybe I'm in the middle of my personal West Coast fever dream.

SM: How has your time in Los Angeles shaped your work? Do you draw from imagery you find in LA? Which pieces, if any, harken to your life in Germany?

FK: Well, I guess the colors got brighter and the topics got darker. Sunshine and Noir. I live in a city where imagination meets reality and where the collective dreams of the world are being manufactured. It's a fantastic and inspiring place to work and it helps me to go further into the back of my mind and take the elevator down to my heart. Edward Abbey summed it up nicely: "There is science, logic, reason; there is thought verified by experience, and then there is California."

SM: When or how did you discover you wanted to become an artist?

FK: Do you ever decide that? Plus, what defines an artist? And what does it take to be an artist? I can only refer to Werner Herzog, who said that the only artists left are those working in the circus. It might sound pathetic but I believe art chooses you and ideally you are in it for a gradual and lifelong construction of wonder and serenity.

SM: Alain Curtis (Disco) has a pop art sensibility to it. Are you inspired by any specific precedents?

FK: That's basically a hybrid fantasy image from French actor Alain Delon and American actor Tony Curtis. It lends a face to all these fragmented characters in the Hammer show. Sensibility yes, pop art, no.

The artist's Alain Curtis (Disco), 2009.

SM: Can you talk about the pair of sneakers and the stream of birds that accompanies them? To me the piece evokes a nostalgia for boyhood. I wonder whether the empty sneakers symbolize an empty man or an invisible boy within the man.

FK: I liked the idea of transforming an everyday object, like the shoelaces we touch every morning, into a romantic projection of ourselves and our desires to disappear. I thought of this scene where someone is tying his shoes and literally his thoughts materialize into birds flying away... It almost had this subtext of "the dreamer is the realist of today."

Hammer Projects: Friedrich Kunath. Installation view at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of Joshua White.

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