Phillips Collection presents Per Kirkeby. Paintings and Sculpture, an exhibition on view October 6 – January 6, 2012.
Per Kirkeby: Paintings and Sculpture is the most comprehensive survey in the United States to date of works by Scandinavia’s most highly acclaimed living artist, Per Kirkeby (Danish, b. 1938). Equally trained as a geologist and an artist, Kirkeby is a painter of eminent sensuality, creating richly layered canvases filled with prodigious detail and animated by an unequaled material quality of color. He is not only a leading painter, sculptor, and printmaker, but also a prolific writer, poet, and filmmaker.
The exhibition features 26 expressive paintings and 11 striking bronze models. Kirkeby’s paintings—some over six feet tall—are structured like geological strata, constantly in flux, moving and changing, continuously and passionately maintaining a dialogue between art and science. For Kirkeby, art, like science, is engaged in an ongoing, self-correcting process. His works incorporate all aspects of natural history, reflecting the artist’s considerable curiosity about the infinite variety of life.
Kirkeby likens paintings to “collapsing structures,” a metaphor borrowed from geology. His bronze sculptures in the exhibition are fragmented bodies—mostly, arms, legs, or heads, often melted together—reminiscent of Auguste Rodin’s radicalized torsos, but rooted in a deep dialogue with nature. He reworks these fragmentary limbs into forms that barely suggest a figure, taking care not to harbor any narrative or anecdotal content.
Kirkeby’s synthesis of history and science is also informed by the art history and landscape of his native Denmark. The contrasting combination of Kirkeby’s deep affinity with Danish romantic naturalism and his empirical training is evident in his film Deer Garden: The Romantic Forest (1970), on view in the exhibition. Shot near Copenhagen, Deer Garden juxtaposes lush, idyllic depictions of the park with dispassionate, factual spoken commentary.
The Phillips Collection
600 21st Street, NW, Washington, D.C
Category: Fine Art