Popular Art from Norway

Popular Art from Norway

Alt Går Bra

October 29, 2020
Popular Art from Norway
November 6–December 6, 2020
Alt Går Bra
Strandgaten 208
5004 Bergen

A series of exhibitions focusing on folk and popular art questions traditional perceptions of these artistic expressions at Alt Går Bra Lokale in Bergen, Norway.

Curated by Alt Går Bra, the exhibitions show works contributed by the public together with some selected pieces from community associations and local institutions. 

Three exhibitions, each dedicated to a specific medium, propose novel articulations between folk and popular art and contemporary art. The series critically explores Romantic conceptions which either idealize folk art as a natural force or reduce it to an inferior art form, only able to replicate a watered-down version of elite art.

The first exhibition focused on faner, Norwegian traditional banners from schools, clubs, unions, choirs, and other associations. Paraded by the hundreds on Labor Day and on Norway’s national day, these embroidered and painted pieces display the understudied work of anonymous female seamstresses and embroiderers. Fanekunst showed a selection of faner during May, when the banners were prevented from being paraded due to Covid-19 restrictions for both Labor Day and the national holiday.

Through June-July, the second exhibition, Kunst i de Tusen Hjem, featured one hundred oil paintings from Bergen and its region, Hordaland. These included works by the cityscape painter Andreas Grynne and the prolific Stranda painters, a remarkable phenomenon featured in The New York Times. Usually depicting typical Norwegian landscapes and hytte (country cabins) but also urban scenes, these paintings embellished nearly every Norwegian house from the Postwar until up to the 1970s.

Akantus, the last exhibition to take place through November, will be devoted to the acanthus ornament. Objects from daily life decorated with this millenary ornament will be on display, ranging from furniture to kaketiner (cake boxes), silverware, and pyntehåndkle (decorative dishcloths), executed with different techniques including rosemaling, woodcarving, and embroidery. Stemming from the Acanthus Project, the exhibition researches the history of the single most prolific ornamental motive in human history. Originating in Ancient Greece, the acanthus was particularly embraced in Norway, infusing much of Norwegian traditional arts including rosemaling, and embellishing the typical stave churches in the form of woodcarving. Local acanthus woodcarvers and rosemaling painters will be producing work live during the exhibition, demonstrating the technical skill involved in producing these classical Norwegian crafts.

The exhibitions will be in dialog with the work of Alt Går Bra, the group of artists curating the shows. Alongside the exhibitions, Alt Går Bra will show its casts of acanthus ornaments decorating buildings in Bergen—mapped and catalogued on its acanthus portal and database www.akantus.no. A collection of 20 faner, sewn and painted by the artists, was shown for the Fanekunst exhibition and original copies of the landscape paintings were on display for Kunst i de Tusen Hjem.

When many in the contemporary arts are currently seeking further engagement with local communities, but reality shows an increasing alienation of the general public, an examination of folk and popular art might prove conducive to narrowing that gap.

The exhibitions reflect upon the ideas of several thinkers of popular art, including Antonio Gramsci, Mikhail Lifshitz, Arnold Hauser, Janet Wolff, and Adolfo Sánchez Vázquez, who pointed out the historic tendency of capitalism to discard the people from the sphere of artistic creation reducing them to mere consumers of artistic subproducts. “Collective and popular art, that el pueblo not only consumes but also produces, finds hostile conditions in its development,” remarked Sánchez Vázquez in his The Aesthetic Ideas of Marx

Alt Går Bra Lokale Bergen is an open art studio run by the group of visual artists Alt Går Bra. The space hosts a gallery, discursive events, and Alt Går Bra’s publishing house. Alt Går Bra Lokale Paris will open to the public in 2021.

Video presentation

Alt Går Bra Lokale Bergen 
Strandgaten 208, 5004 Bergen, Norway

Alt Går Bra Lokale Paris 
11 Rue des Petits Carreaux, 75002 Paris, France
altgarbra [​at​] gmail.com

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October 29, 2020

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