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Photographer Simen Johan explores uneasy connections between Humans and Animals

 

Simen Johan: Until the Kingdom Comes Opens in Gordon Contemporary Artists Project Gallery
February 20th, 2011

Nashville, TN – The Frist Center’s Gordon Contemporary Artists Project Gallery will feature Simen Johan: Until the Kingdom Comes, comprising nine large-scale digital photographs and three sculptures. The exhibition opens February 20th, 2011, and will remain on view through May 29th, 2011.

Often showing wild animals in natural settings, Johan’s photographs may seem like National Geographic idylls writ gloriously large. Yet while appearing to be straightforward documents of nature, the works have an underlying allegorical content. The majestic creatures seem to occupy the titular “kingdom,” an ideal place where desires will be fulfilled and life’s dilemmas resolved. But contained within each image are imperfections that bring this utopic implication back to reality.

For every photograph of graceful creatures and pristine landscapes, there are portrayals of animals showing pain, fear or exhaustion in landscapes that are more desolate than beautiful. Johan explains that the title of the exhibition refers “less to the kingdoms of the bible and natural world, and more to the human fantasy that one day, in some way, life will come to a blissful resolution.

The answers to who we are and what we’re doing in this world will come to light and validate our existence.”  He acknowledges the paradox that while the belief in this more perfect place may be an illusion, it is still an indispensable aspect of human nature.

Johan uses digital technology to blur the boundaries between the real and the imagined. He photographs animals that live in zoos, farms, or nature preserves, or that have been taxidermied or found as road kill. These are situated in settings that seem variously primal in their beauty or post-apocalyptic in their evocation of a ruined land. None of the works depict people, but they contain parallels with human behavior or hints of human influence. We may think of a pair of foxes as husband and wife. Three large bears rooting through a garbage pile remind us of human wastefulness. A clash between enormous male moose could be reenacted on any Saturday night as two men fighting over a spilled beer or a desirable woman.

Similar echoes of human interaction are contained in Johan’s sculptures. These are made from taxidermied animals that have been altered into playful and disturbing constructions, which often feature small birds, foliage and insects living in the fur or feathers of the host animal. These mini-ecosystems reflect his observation that “in nature, there’s a lot of deception and wanting to be fabulous going on, belonging or not belonging, world making, nest making, parasitical situations, etc.” Although both his photographs and sculptures may seem to promise the final tranquility of Eden, Johan is ultimately concerned with capturing the paradoxical nature of life, which, in his words, offers “an emotion-driven experience, engulfed in uncertainty, desire and illusion.”

The artist will be on hand for an Artist’s Perspective at 6:30pm, Friday, March 4th, 2011, in the Frist Center Auditorium.  His lecture is free, and seating is offered on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Simen Johan

Simen Johan was born in Norway and raised in Sweden and earned his B.F.A. at the School of Visual Arts in New York. His works have been exhibited internationally and are held in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Johan currently lives in New York and is represented by the Yossi Milo Gallery.

Exhibition Credit

This exhibition is organized by the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in collaboration with 21C Museum in Louisville.

Sponsors

The Frist Center for the Visual Arts is supported in part by the Metro Nashville Arts Commission and the Tennessee Arts Commission.

Related Public Programs

Friday, March 4th – Artist’s Perspective: Simen Johan

6:30pm
Auditorium
Free

Join New York-based artist Simen Johan as he discusses some of his work presented in Simen Johan: Until the Kingdom Comes, an exhibition on view in the Gordon Contemporary Artists Project Gallery through May 29. Johan’s works reflect uneasy connections between humans and other species. His digital photographs, which show live or taxidermied animals Photoshopped onto various natural and human made landscape environments, blur boundaries between the real and unreal, animal and human, and beauty and brutality. His sculptures of taxidermied birds are interwoven with insects and foliage, serving in his words as “miniature parasitical ecosystems.”

Friday, March 25th – ARTini: Simen Johan: Until the Kingdom Comes

7:00pm
Meet at the information desk
Free with purchase of gallery admission

Join Lori Anne Parker, Ph.D., editor at the Frist Center, as she leads an informal conversation about New York-based artist Simen Johan’s work.

ARTinis are designed for everyone—from the novice to the connoisseur—and include informal and insightful conversations that offer a deeper understanding of one or two works of art in an exhibition.

Tuesday, March 29th – ARTini: Simen Johan: Until the Kingdom Comes

12:00pm
Meet at the information desk
Free with purchase of gallery admission

ARTinis are designed for everyone—from the novice to the connoisseur—and include informal and insightful conversations that offer a deeper understanding of one or two works of art in an exhibition.

Join Lori Anne Parker, Ph.D., editor at the Frist Center, as she leads an informal conversation about New York-based artist Simen Johan’s work. Complete your visit with stop in the café or gift shop.

About the Frist Center

Accredited by the American Association of Museums, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, located at 919 Broadway in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, is an art exhibition center dedicated to presenting the finest visual art from local, regional, U.S. and international sources in a program of changing exhibitions. The Frist Center’s Martin ArtQuest Gallery features interactive stations relating to Frist Center exhibitions. Gallery admission to the Frist Center is free for visitors 18 and younger and to Frist Center members. Frist Center admission is $10.00 for adults and $7.00 for seniors, military and college students with ID. College students are admitted free Thursday and Friday evenings (with the exception of Frist Fridays), 5:00pm–9:00pm. Discounts are offered for groups of 10 or more with advance reservation by calling 615-744-3247.The Frist Center is open seven days a week: Mondays through Wednesdays, and Saturdays, 10:00am–5:30pm; Thursdays and Fridays, 10:00am–9:00pm and Sundays, 1:00pm–5:30pm, with the Frist Center Café opening at noon. Additional information is available by calling 615-244-3340 or by visiting our Web site at www.fristcenter.org.


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