Contemporary Icelandic Art on display at the North Dakota Museum of Art
Into the Tussock:
The exhibition was co-curated by NDMOA Director and Chief Curator Laurel Reuter and Icelandic artist Helgi Þorgils Friðjónsson. Reuter visited many artist studios in Iceland over the past four years. She ultimately invited Friðjónsson to join her as co-curator because of the singular “Icelandic-ness” of his painting as well as his long involvement in organizing exhibitions of both Icelandic and international artists for his own Corridor Gallery.
This sophisticated lot has sent to North Dakota works steeped in the history of European art such as Guðjón Ketilsson’s relief carvings of all the hats in Bruegel’s 1567 painting Peasant Wedding Feast. Or paintings from Birgir Snæbjörn Birgisson’s Blond Miss World Series (1951 – 2007)? Begun in 1951 with the establishment of the Miss World contest, the artist decided to follow the concept of blondness by painting one portrait each year for fifty years of the winner, “the most beautiful woman in the world.”
The celebrated sound artist Finnbogi Pétursson has created a new work for North Dakota. Pétursson often uses implements that produce electronic or acoustic sound—loudspeakers, wires, and instruments—to form sculptures themselves.
The instinct for storytelling appears in the work of several artists including Olöf Nordal with her Iceland Specimen Collection. Three photographs of wax figures, Son and Father, Daughter and Father, and Father and Son, are inspired by a legend about a man who, when crossing a mountain, came across the body of a young man left behind by a receding glacier.
Building things with one’s own hands is still close to people in seemingly isolated places such as Iceland and North Dakota. Katrín Sigurðardóttir and Helgi Hjaltalín Eyjólfsson, like Guðjón Ketilsson, fabricate and build their art. Sigurðardóttir is known for constructing landscapes in shipping crates which she simply folds up and sends off to the next exhibition. The landscapes, while not identified as Iceland, certainly suggest her home place. Eyjólfsson, on the other hand, defines the rudiments of interior landscapes from rough building lumber. The housing for a grandfather’s clock has no mechanism. Wainscoting wraps a non-existent room. A slice from a tree suggests one could count rings and thus calculate the age of the tree—except he wrapped a core with layers of veneer, around and around, adding ring after artificial ring until it measured thirty-nine inches in diameter.
Organized by the North Dakota Museum of Art in collaboration with the North Dakota Council on the Arts; The Icelandic Foreign Ministry; Eimskip, Iceland's oldest shipping company; The American-Scandinavian Foundation; and the participating artists.