Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ragnar KjartanssonMr. Kjartansson, standing at an easel day after day (at the VENICE BIENNALE) relentlessly painting the portrait of a man who poses before him in a black Speedo, cigarette and beer in hand. (Pall Haukur Bjornsson) As time passes, the canvases Mr. Kjartansson makes — he plans to complete one a day — will mount up around him, as will the empty bottles and butt-filled ashtrays, all of it a monument to artistic ruin.Last year in a performance that could be seen as a warm-up for Venice, he assumed all the clichéd trappings of a plein-air painter, sitting on a hillside in upstate New York with an easel, smoking cigars and reading “Lolita” while he worked. Mr. Kjartansson, who trained as a painter at the Icelandic Academy of the Arts, said his intention in neither that work nor in Venice was to disparage painting. In the manner of many young artists now, he seems to be trying to express a kind of simultaneous reverence and mockery, though maybe only the mockery of ribbing himself for longing to be a more traditional artist. - Randy Kennedy, NY Times

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