Is this your first show at a restaurant?
Yes, it is and I’m quite exciting about it. Art and food have a special relationship and many artists have traded art for food over the years. I am intrigued in cooking myself, in many ways it resembles art making.
Also, Taverna Brillo provides such an exciting surrounding and offers good music. No less than two of my DJ friends are playing here over the course of this show.
What are you installing?
Six lightbox pieces, from my ongoing project Entering the Void. They consist of digital prints referring to different Mark Rothko paintings. I have been tracing the paintings’ provenance, to reveal the interesting story of Rothko’s legacy after his death in 1970.
Ironically Rothko withdrew a large commission from the Four Seasons in New York, after he had been to a dinner with the rich cliental of the restaurant. He would probably turn in his grave if he knew about my show. Surely enough to generate all the electricity needed to light up the lightboxes.
Who is Rothko?
Mark Rothko is a Jewish American born in Dvinsk (modern day Latvia). He was one of the key figures of Abstract Expressionism. During my late teens, his work was my first, real art experience, he opened my eyes for what art can be. I was fascinated by the stories about his life, and people’s experiences of his paintings. Today a Rothko stands for power and wealth, the definition of the highest status symbol that money can buy on the private art market.
Do these light boxes show reproductions of excising Rothko paintings?
Correct, each lightbox piece represents an original Rothko painting. I have scanned hundreds of Rothko paintings in books and on the internet, learning about their background to detect gaps that reveal they were illegally traded by his gallery Marlborough after his death.
Each lightbox is a representation of a particularly painting. I selected the ones I found most attractive, and turned them into high quality images ready for print. My reproductions are not the same size as the original. Nor are the lightboxes all the same size.
Where does it leave originality?
Now, I have been interested in the notion of originality for a long time, and I want to question it. To my mind, the act of reproducing is simply a way of art production. I create new meanings and forms by imitating, copying, reproducing and reusing. I would argue that a lot about the artwork is revealed in the act of making it. Also, how you work with it in an actual space is important. However, the idea of authenticity and the trace of the artist’s hand is of less importance to me. In theory, anyone could download these images, print them off and built their own Rothko lightboxes.
What do you find appealing about American modernism?
Rothko, and all the other Abstract Expressionist artists are more of historical figures to me. Artists who have become some sort of romanticized myths of modernism. I do really like the vibrant colors of Rothko’s art, and I love indulging their luminous glow. My first experience of a real Rothko was sacred. Like so many other people have described, the paintings really stuck in my mind, and stayed there even after I had left the room.
Although I view it with some criticism and humor, I guess Rothko is my guilty pleasure. It is like when people enjoy watching Mad Men, but don’t necessarily identify with the bigotry and racism of the era the TV series portray. The act of printing Rothko paintings and putting them in lightboxes is perhaps a way of expressing my criticism.
How did this show come about?
It came through a discussion with Artworks’ Henrik Kanekrans. I was looking for a dark and vibrant environment to show the lightboxes. Henrik suggested Taverna Brillo, and helped me to get in contact with their art and club promoter Luciano Leiva. We meet shortly after and here we are.
Interested in finding out more about Karl Patric Näsman, click here.