Sketched across the top of what looks like a Hudson River School-inspired doodle, the words “We better stop pretending” mark the threshold of Friedrich Kunath’s latest solo show, “The Temptation to Exist (May Contain Nuts)” at Andrea Rosen Gallery. The phrase, says the artist, is intended as an invitation into his singular world, filled with the alien touch of carpeting and scented with a faint waft of anise. “I wanted to undermine the pathos and the heaviness of the exhibition so that people could jump right into the sincere,” says Kunath.
The show, on view until April 26th, treats fragrance as what the artist calls “invisible sculpture.” Scent, he explains, “is the only sense that goes directly to the brain without going through the spinal cord. It’s our only source of unfiltered emotion. When I get started on a canvas, I like to spray it with a scent because it enables me to establish a feeling.”
Bright and colorful, Kunath’s canvases allude to childhood through references like school notebook pages and tabbed folders. To match the nostalgia of his file folder sunset series, which stretches across the western wall of the gallery’s first room, Kunath infused the space with an anise-based fragrance, which, for him, evokes youthful memories of both “syrupy summer drinks and medicine.” In the second room, the colorful sweetness of the main gallery gives way to the reverential scent of frankincense and the artist’s increasingly murky compositions. And as one continues into the third chamber, brown carpeting and the abrasive scent of soil provide a melancholy conclusion. “I’ve always like the Willie Nelson quote, ‘It’s all one song,’ because that’s how I think about my art,” says Kunath. “Whether it’s a fragrance or a sculpture or a painting, they are all part of the one language I am using to articulate an emotion.”
Friedrich Kunath “The Temptation to Exist (May Contain Nuts)” is on view at Andrea Rosen Gallery through April 26th.