Grazer Kunstverein

Hreinn Friðfinnsson & Bruce McLean

06 Jun - 03 Aug 2014

E Hreinn Friðfinsson
‘Pair’, 2004
Mirror with silver wooden frame, Shoe
48 x 57 cm (mirror)
Courtesy the artist and ADN Collection, Bolzano
© Bruce McLean
‘King for a Day’, 1972
Colour vintage photograph, 40 x 40 cm, Unique
Courtesy the artist and Tanya Leighton, Berlin
6 June – 3 August 2014

The Grazer Kunstverein’s ongoing investigation into notions of social abstraction has been slowly shifting towards the often-direct relationships between artists and their surroundings. Both emotional as well as intellectual, these relationships frequently result in abstract translations that still keep ‘the social’ as their core point of interest.

Hreinn Friðfinnsson (b. 1943, IS) and Bruce McLean (b. 1944, GB) are pioneer artists from the same generation who, to this day, have never met. Juxtaposed to each another, these artists explore, each in their own way, their physical presence and relationship towards artistic production and representation.

In the mid-1970s, the Icelandic artist Hreinn Friðfinnsson placed an advert in a Dutch art magazine asking people to send him their secrets. By posing as a collector of secrets, the artist would, he thought, allay suspicions that he had any ulterior motive in using or revealing privileged information that might come his way. The secret, Friðfinnsson may be telling us, is that there isn’t one. His art, on the other hand, is an invitation to imagine that there might be. The artist’s work is known for its lyricism and subtle poetry that transcends the often-commonplace subjects and materials that the artist uses to create his pieces. He often presents found objects with which he interferes as little as possible, creating new works that investigate ideas of ‘the self’ and of ‘time’. Friðfinnsson is a natural storyteller. Most of his works often beg for a narrative, or the fabrication of a story.

On invitation to exhibit at the Tate Gallery in 1972, Bruce McLean decided to organize a one-day retrospective titled ‘King for a Day’, after which he would retire from the art world. Despite a distanced and often cynical approach towards the professionalized art industry, he seems to be more active then ever.

McLean’s early research into notions of sculpture gave him the reputation of ‘master at mockery’, questioning the production and representation of ‘the artist’ as well as ‘the work’ itself. It was with his performative works that he first grabbed the attention of the art world. Full of wit and humour, McLean critiqued the fashion-oriented, social climbing nature of the contemporary art world in the ’70s. At a later stage, the prop and painter-like aspects of some of the early performative works developed into theatre pieces and, most recently, into paintings.

Playing with these notions of ‘presence’ and ‘absence’, the Grazer Kunstverein presents a key selection of works that provoke and enhance the conceptual realm both artists seem to occupy.

Tags: Hreinn Friðfinnsson, Bruce McLean