Olaf Breuning: Storm: WINDOW, 91 Walker Street New York, NY (corner of Walker and Lafayette Street)

June 6 - August 30, 2023
Anton Kern Gallery is thrilled to present Olaf Breuning’s exhibition Storm at WINDOW. The show will open Tuesday, June 6 and run through August 30.

Olaf Breuning’s exhibition consists of a crouching llama carved from stone, a group of pink and blue aluminum clouds, and four colorful woodblock landscape paintings. Contrasting wall colors set the mood for the lively narrative that is unfolding. Storm, an exhibition about nature and our relationship to it, is guided by the simplicity and economy of material, scale, and humor.

The stone-carved llama is surrounded by radiant images of nature, but its posture and facial expression suggest a sense of alertness, the wide-open yellow ceramic eyes indicate concern, perhaps even fear. The llama is the most recent in a series of stone animals, inspired by small limestone carvings from Peru and reminiscent of archaeo-cubist sculptures of the early avantgarde. Breuning has breathed life into these creatures, giving them presence and a voice. They possess a playful disposition and are self-aware of their emotional allure. With genuine concern and a good dose of humor, the artist has titled them “Sad and Worried Animals.”

For the landscape paintings, Breuning uses a similarly archaic and raw mode of production: rough-hewn, chainsaw-cut woodblocks to stamp out vivid compositions of single natural elements. The shapes (clouds, leaves, raindrops, waves, stars, blades of grass) are kept as simple as possible and can be reused and combined freely. The resulting paintings subtly mirror the inventiveness of evolution; they can be balanced and harmonious, as in the main side on Walker Street, or full of tension and turmoil, as in the red space on Lafayette. The clouds reflect a similarly uncomplicated approach to image making.

The economy employed by the artist in the making of the sculptures and paintings, resembling nature’s basic ingredients, is remarkable. Breuning chooses seemingly straightforward yet essentially complex materials to speak about nature, uses scale to turn up the volume and startle the viewer, and humor to engage in a dialogue and call for action. Breuning remarks, “I use nature to talk about nature,” and with a wink he adds, “the world weighs heavy, but my shoulders are soft.”

The large window space, enveloped in humorous, almost cartoony abundance, generates a harmonious atmosphere in which the animal coexists with images of a vibrantly diverse nature. The small window, however, is painted in alarm-red, warning of impending trouble. Nature seems tense and angry. Turbulent weather is ahead, a storm is brewing.
Olaf Breuning was born in 1970 in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, and lives and works in upstate New York. He was the subject of a major retrospective at the NRW-Forum Düsseldorf in 2016. Additionally, he has had one-person exhibitions at Palais de Tokyo, Paris; Chisenhale Gallery, London; Kunstverein Freiburg, Germany; Kunsthall Stavanger, Norway; and the Paul Klee Museum, Bern. Public exhibitions of his work include the Public Art Fund commission Clouds, Doris C. Freedman Plaza, Central Park, New York, as well as the Public Art Fund exhibition Lightness of Being, City Hall Park, New York. He participated in the 2008 Whitney Biennial and has been featured in group exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Pompidou Center, Paris; Haus der Kunst, Munich; Kunsthalle Zurich; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Jeu de Paume, Paris; KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; Whitechapel Gallery, London; and the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo.
Installation Views