The Munch Museum has been collaborating across borders for a while now in order to get the right pieces for their Munch + exhibition series. In the Munch + exhibitions, selected pieces by Edvard Munch are put together with pieces by fellow artists from their individual time periods. The juxtaposed artists have certain similarities in their artistries and perhaps also some kind of connection in their persona with the world-famous Norwegian artist. The Munch + Jorn exhibition marks the ending of the Munch + exhibition series and is the last time for now that Edvard Munch is juxtaposed with other artists. Over the last two years he has been connected to artists Bjarne Melgaard, Gustav Vigeland, Robert Mapplethorpe, Jasper Johns and Asger Jorn during the Munch + exhibitions series.
Bjarne Melgaard can in many ways be considered to be a visual philosopher working across artistic disciplines and is at the moment one of the most renowned Norwegian artists on the contemporary art scene. His work points to subversive themes often inspired by various provocative sub-cultures such as S&M and heavy metal. The type of controversies that Melgaard stirs his talented fingers around in these days are visually far more extreme than what Munch expressed through some of his most controversial paintings. If the juxtaposition of their artwork is however taken a bit further in mind, it is quite interesting to imagine the world that Munch found himself in, thinking how paintings like Puberty awoke strong reactions back then. Puberty is considered to be what led to increase the expression of his personal feelings through the artwork, and alike Munch, Melgaard also seems to grow above the debates created through his art rather than falling below the confusion.
When Melgaard first falls, he intends for this to happen in his project A House to Die In, a building that he plans to build together with architecture and design firm Snøhetta very close to Munchs old home at Ekely in Oslo.
Gustav Vigeland was only six years younger than Munch, and both of the artists lived in the capital of Norway that was named Kristiania back in the days. The two of them also went to The Royal Drawing School of Kristiania and they even stayed and worked next doors to each other in a Berlin hotel for a while. It is quite obvious that there simply has to be found similarities in their artworks considering how close Vigeland and Munch existed, and what they doubtlessly have in common is a related history in development when it comes to their choices of motifs. Some of the trends in their time were the portrayal of angst, ambiguous motifs of love and dark motifs of doomsday. Vigeland expressed these trends through sculpture and Munch through painting. The most similar pieces juxtaposed at the exhibition were definitely Munch’s painting of a human body-pile titled The Human Mountain and Vigeland’s monumental sculpture of a human body-pile titled Monolitten.
Robert Mapplethorpe enrolled at Pratt Institute in nearby Brooklyn, New York, where he studied the classic disciplines of drawing, painting, and sculpture. What he became famous for was on the other hand his controversial photographs that he started experimenting with for the reason that he considered it to be a more honest way of expression. His interest for the New York S&M scene can easily be linked to Melgaard, but what Mapplethorpe shared with Munch was something deeper than fascination for the kinky. Both Munch and Mapplethorpe explored their own identities through a set of self-portraits, and they portrayed themselves at their inmost existential depths. Munch’s melancholic photographs of himself, and Mapplethorpe’s photographs experimenting with his own sexuality is where the connection between the two is strongest by meeting in the same medium in such vulnerable situations.
Never before in Scandinavia had there been such a broad exhibition of the artworks by one of the greatest figures of contemporary art and precursor for the American pop-art, Jasper Johns. His first encounter with Munch’s paintings was on an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. About 25 years later, references to Edvard Munch’s artworks appeared in Jasper John’s paintings. He was inspired by Munch’s take on themes of love, angst, sickness and death as well as being attracted to the Norwegian artist’s refreshingly experimental approach to art. The most central piece of the exhibition of the two was Munch’s self-portrait Between the clock and the bed that is linked to John’s series of cross-hatch paintings. The similarity between the cross-hatch and the pattern on the bedspread in Munch’s self-portrait was actually not intended to begin with. Later on. Johns did however choose to use this fascinating coincidence in a series of paintings titled with the same title as Munch’s painting. The cross-hatch in black and a hue of red on white background was also the print on the smart limited edition tote bag from the exhibition.
And now last, but not least, Danish artist Asger Jorn is exhibited alongside Edvard Munch. As a young artist, Asger Jorn was a founding member of the avant-garde and surrealist movement CoBrA in Paris. These artists painted directly and spontaneously, and just like children they wanted to work expressively without a preconceived plan, using their fantasy and much color. The CoBrA artists rebelled against the rules of the art academies and dreamed of a form of art without constraint. When he was 30 years, Jorn travelled to Oslo to see a far-reaching retrospective exhibition of Edvard Munch that had passed away the year before. The artworks of the late artist were exhibited in the National Gallery, right after the end of World War 2, that Munch never lived to see. The exhibited artworks on this exhibition made a huge impression on Jorn that was familiar with the earlier works of Munch but didn’t expect at all how different his later works would turn out to be. The expression that Jorn took in was a direct, spontaneous and intense, and he identified it as Munch’s painterly liberation. This strong impression gave resonance to the young artist that conveniently came directly from the spontaneous paining of Surrealism. Jorn strongly promoted the importance for an artist to study culture and aesthetics, and as a result he is remembered as one of the most committed abstract painters of the postwar period, and a thoughtful artist who believed in and worked hard for reshaping society.
monDieu has enjoyed the Munch + Exhibitions very much, and congratulate the Munch Museum on their success in creating exhibitions that have been interesting, inspiring, surprising, beautifully curated and forward-thinking.
Last chance to see the Munch + Jorn exhibition is today.