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Ragnar Kjartansson, Scenes From Western Culture, Rich German Children (Ingibjörg Sigurjónsdóttir), 2015, Single channel video, Duration: 52 minutes 46 seconds.

The McEvoy Foundation for the Arts presents two major installations by Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson: Scenes from Western Culture (2015) and Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt (2015), shown alongside preparatory watercolor sketches. The exhibition explores Kjartansson’s fascination with artifice, the sublime, Western dreams and norms, and French Rococo painter Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721).

 

Scenes from Western Culture is a collection of videos depicting a faintly absurd and occasionally ominous vision of Western life. Kjartansson draws inspiration from Watteau’s pastoral scenes of aristocrats enjoying various festivities, a style that coined the phrase fête galante.

 

Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt features a series of free-standing paintings of snowy crags. The exposed plywood on the reverse side transforms the sculpture to a theater set. Translated as “only he who knows longing” from a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt champions the sublime and the mundane as one.