With international artists increasingly looking to Iceland as a source of inspiration for their work, and Icelandic artists increasingly being shown internationally, Degrees North will bring the work of six of the most influential artists in the history of Icelandic art to an American audience. Working in the mode of what has been called “poetic Conceptualism,” these artists provide new perspectives within the global Conceptual narrative, utilizing the Icelandic landscape, language, and culture as their source material. This exhibition will look in-depth at the work of a community of artists – Birgir Andrésson (b. 1955, d. 2007), Douwe Jan Bakker (b. 1943, d. 1997), Hreinn Friðfinnsson (b. 1943), Kristján Guðmundsson (b. 1941), Sigurður Guðmundsson (b. 1942), and Magnús Pálsson (b. 1929) – artists who have worked in conversation with each other over a large span of years (both in Iceland and abroad, specifically, in the Netherlands), often tackling similar concerns, but from various unique perspectives. All of these artists have shown extensively in Europe and Scandinavia, but their work is relatively unknown in the United States.
Birgir Andrésson was born in 1955 in the Westman Islands, Iceland. Much of his work is informed by a sensitivity to language he developed growing up as a sighted child in a home for the blind. He explores the relationship between the visual image and the spoken word, often drawing on themes from Icelandic culture. By his own account, he was the last member of the artist collective/gallery SÚM. He was an artist in residence at Jan van Eyck Academy from 1978-79, where he worked with Douwe Jan Bakker. Birgir was the Icelandic representative for Venice Biennale in 1995 and he has exhibited all over Iceland and in several countries in Scandinavia and Europe. He died in 2007.
Douwe Jan Bakker
Douwe Jan Bakker was born in 1943 in Heemstede, Netherlands. Bakker began working with and exhibiting with the Icelandic artists who were living in the Netherlands around 1970. Soon after he began traveling to Iceland and the Icelandic landscape and language became the preeminent occupation of his work. Bakker was a tutor at Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht in the late 70s, where he worked with Birgir Andrésson and became his mentor, or as Birgir says, his “father in art.” Bakker was included in the Dutch pavilion for the Venice Biennale in 1978. He died in 1997.
Hreinn Friðfinnsson was born in 1943 in Dalir, Iceland. He was a co-founder of SÚM gallery in 1969. He is known for creating poetic pieces out of everyday objects through a variety of media, including drawing, photography, text, and sculpture. Hreinn was the subject of a significant retrospective this past summer at Serpentine Gallery in London, curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist. He lives and works in Amsterdam.
Kristján Guðmundsson was born in 1941 in Stórahraun, Iceland. He was a co-founder of SÚM gallery in 1969 and director of the gallery in its first year. Kristján studied flying. He lived in the Netherlands in the 1970s and traveled in Spain and the United States. He and other SÚM artists befriended Dieter Roth in Iceland and he exposed them to Concrete poetry and book art, which Kristján found very influential. He has had solo shows in Iceland, the Netherlands, and other countries in Europe and Scandinavia. His catalog raisonne was published in 2001. He lives and works in Reykjavík.
Sigurður Guðmundsson was born in 1942 in Reykjavík , Iceland. He was a co-founder of SÚM gallery in 1969. Sigurður moved to Amsterdam, Netherlands in 1970, where he first approadched Gijs van Tuyl (now director of the Stedelijk Museum) to curate a show of SÚM artists at Museum Fodor in Amsterdam. Since the 70s, Siguður has shown extensively in the Netherlands, throughout Europe, and Scandinavia. He represented Iceland in the Nordic Pavilion in the Venice Biennale in 1976 and 1978. His catalog raisonne was published in 1991. He lives in China and maintains studios in China, Amsterdam, and the Netherlands.
Magnús Pálsson was born in1929 in Eskifjörður, Iceland. He studied set design and theater and was one of the early active participants in the Icelandic avant-garde. Magnús was a member of SÚM and a co-founder of the Living Art Museum in 1978. He was a teacher of many Icelandic artists, including Birgir Andrésson. Magnús was included in the Nordic Pavilion of the Venice Biennale in 1980. He lives and works in London.
Degrees North: Six Artists and the Icelandic Landscape was organized by Nicole Pollentier as part of the requirements for the master of arts degree in curatorial studies.
CCS Bard student-curated exhibitions are made possible with support from the Rebecca and Martin Eisenberg Student Exhibition Fund, Mitzi and Warren Eisenberg, and the Patrons, Supporters, and Friends of the Center for Curatorial Studies. Special thanks to the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.