For decades Kristján Gudmundsson has created artworks that capture the moment where concept collides with reality. Our notion of function is inverted through his inquiries; we no longer apprehend objects, space and time in quite the same way. He is a poet of concision, sifting through the unlimited array of recognizable objects, broadening our apprehension of what we are surrounded with: a professional javelin poll, aluminum grates used for sound insulation, iron, industrial rolls of paper, soil, gravel, graphite, and cardboard. The most basic of elements are appropriated and re-envisioned. Among his most recognized and celebrated pieces are simple excursions using a pencil to draw lines over set increments of time.
Gudmundsson was central to the Icelandic group SÚM in the 1960s, young artists inspired by international conceptualism, in particular the Fluxus movement. They became a hugely influential turning point in the history of contemporary art in Iceland. At the time, Gudmundsson’s work was derided by much of the establishment, but now key works are proud benchmarks of modern art in the collections of the National Gallery of Iceland and other Icelandic institutions. It is likely no exaggeration that in the Icelandic art community today he is viewed as the elder statesman.
In a truly seminal work included in this current exhibition he uses two massive newspaper rolls, each weighing a ton, set apart from each other and behind a large slab of graphite. It has affinity to work of Serra, Andre, Judd and more, but with Gudmundsson the work is more restricted to found objects. Other works on view incorporate elements such as thin bands of pencil lead mounted to aluminum panels, graphite beams bolted to walls, and monochrome canvases inserted behind perforated metal sheets. These are austere, elegant compositions, philosophical ponderings, at times infused with a hint of wry humor.
Kristján Gudmundsson (b. 1941) lives and works in Iceland. Solo exhibitions have been staged of his work at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, American Scandinavian Foundation, New York, Städtisches Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach,the National Gallery of Iceland, Kunstmuseum, Lucerne, and Rooseum, Malmö. He was the First prize winner of the Carnegie Art Award 2009 and represented Iceland at the 1982 Venice Biennale.
Gudmundsson’s work belongs to the National Gallery of Iceland, the Museum of Contemporary Art Oslo, the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, the Reykjavik Art Museum, Fonds National d’Art Contemporain, Puteaux, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Oslo, and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.
He is represented by i8 Gallery in Reykjavik, Iceland.