Erro. Portrait and Landscape at Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt

Erro. Portrait and Landscape at Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt

Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt

Erró, “Foodscape,” 1964.
Oil on canvas, 200×300 cm.
Moderna Museet, Stockholm.

October 7, 2011

Portrait and Landscape

6 October 2011–8 January 2012

Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt
D-60311 Frankfurt

welcome [​at​]
T (+49-69) 29 98 82-0
F (+49-69) 29 98 82-240.

Opening Hours:
Tue, Fri–Sun 10 a.m.–7 p.m.
Wed and Thu 10 a.m.–10 p.m.

On the occasion of Iceland’s presentation as a guest of honor at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, the Schirn Kunsthalle will dedicate a solo exhibition to this country’s artist Erró from October 6, 2011 to January 8, 2012. Erró ranks among the great solitary figures of twentieth-century art. At once pop and baroque, eye-catching and narrative, critical of society and humorous, moral and inscrutable, he has produced an opulent, unmistakable oeuvre refusing all categorization in the course of the past fifty years.

Born Guðmundur Guðmundsson in Ólafsvík in 1932, Erró, who is regarded as one of Iceland’s foremost artists today, grew up on a remote farm in the country’s southwest. In 1958, he joined the ranks of the international avant-garde when he settled in Paris. Initially decisively influenced by Surrealism which had come to life again in the postwar French capital, Erró, working in the context of the various forms of New Realism and Pop Art emerging in Europe and in the USA, developed a highly individual kind of critical, ironic collage painting in the mid-sixties by using pictorial elements as spread by the mass media which he reproduced in painting.

Erró has produced thousands of paintings since then, which, mostly in the form of series dedicated to a certain subject, unscrupulously combine fragments from the most different spheres (comics, caricatures, picture postcards, catalogues, and magazines of all kinds) to dense, often disturbing visual assemblages. Relying on the endlessly repetitive and obsessive realm of images established by the consumer society, Erró has succeeded in creating a special pictorial history of the modern world. Yet, despite all provocations and breaches of taboos in terms of the contents presented, he has remained surprisingly true to certain conventions of traditional painting in his oeuvre. Thus, he has not only established a particular contemporary form of historical painting, but also resuscitated genres such as portrait and landscape painting in an original way. These genres will be presented in the exhibition at the Schirn in the form of a selection of Erró’s sprawling “Scapes” series, an unusual extension of classical landscape painting, and his series of grotesque double portraits titled “The Monsters,” which have not been on display for more than forty years after a gallery show in 1969. Linking the two work groups, selected films by Erró from the 1960s will be screened.

The “scape” type of picture Erró developed in the mid-sixties provided the artist with an approach he would repeatedly return to and evolve into the common denominator of a series, which may be regarded as the sum total of his production as a painter. These overwhelming large-format “landscapes” resulting from the artist’s examination of an explosively spreading consumerist and media culture confront us with a culmination of the features characteristic of Erró’s art such as the obsessive manner of dealing with reproduced pictures and the principle of accumulation. “Foodscape,” painted immediately after Erró’s first visit to New York, is a definitely programmatic work: the artist unfolds an endless “landscape” of food on a jam-packed surface of 2 x 3 meters. Chunks of cheese, cakes, pieces of meat, vegetables, fruit, sauces, and pastes merge to a dizzying panorama of Western affluent society.

“The Monsters,” a thirty-part series of paintings dating from 1967/68, is a group of works to be read as an ironic comment on the classical portrait genre. Erró’s grotesque gallery of prominent persons confronts each official likeness with a second, monstrously distorted face. Mostly taken from horror movie magazines, Erró’s atrocious grimaces present themselves as the celebrities’ otherwise hidden faces. Yet, since the selection of people from history and today’s world comprising such different heads as Ludwig van Beethoven, Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill, Dante, Paul Klee, Sophia Loren, Marshall McLuhan, Mao, Socrates, Josef Stalin, and Albert Schweitzer follows no graspable concept, the pictures can hardly be understood as a form of direct critique. The artist’s tongue-in-cheek warning not to trust the official image of people too much rather seems to be a reaction to their representation in the media.

DIRECTOR: Max Hollein. CURATOR: Esther Schlicht (Schirn). PRESS CONTACT: Dorothea Apovnik (head Press/Public Relations), Markus Farr (press officer), phone: (+49-69) 29 98 82-148, fax: (+49-69) 29 98 82-240, e-mail:,, (texts, images, and films for download under PRESS).

*Image above:
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011.

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October 7, 2011

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