Galerie Perrotin, New York is presenting the first exhibition dedicated to Icelandic artist Erró (Ólafsvík, 1932), a prominent figure of Pop art and Figuration Narrative in postwar Europe, with an ensemble of 15 paintings made between 1959 and 2016.
As the forefather of painted collage (that is the practice of painting strictly after preparatory montages of ready-made images), Erró has developed since the mid-1950s a satirical and exuberant saga of consumer society and global politics, in which politicians, superheroes, tyrants, aliens, celebrities, warriors and lovers collide.
After studying classical painting, fresco and mosaic in Oslo, Florence and Ravenna, Erró moved to Paris in 1958, where his friend, artist Jean-Jacques Lebel, introduced him to the Dadaist and Surrealist circles, with whom he regularly practiced four-handed drawing. The influence of these artists’ unconventional and fanciful spirit can be seen in his early works and, more specifically, his fascination for the mechanization of humankind at the time.
Erró rejected Abstract expressionism and the Paris School, which prevailed in the postwar art world on both sides of the Atlantic. He instead let ready-made images progressively invade his work until his figurative practices of collage and painting merged for good in the early 1960s. Indeed, while he had already transposed some of his collages onto paintings as early as 1959 with his series “Meca-Make-Up”, in which he hybridized human body parts with mechanical components, and rediscovered that radical gesture in 1963 with his series “Ombromanies”, it wasn’t before 1964 during his first trip to New York that he systematized his two-stage compositional technique and left behind his own imaginary representations to resolutely draw on the infinite resources of mass media and pop culture.
Upon his arrival in New York at the turn of 1964 and within a span of only four months, Erró fully immersed himself in the lively avant-garde milieus of the new art capital.
At Galerie Perrotin, Erró’s chaotic yet incisive visions of the world include “Lovescape” (1973-1974), which spread the love between machines, humans, notably figures borrowed from the history of art, and the whole fauna of the Earth in a phenomenal orgy. Both bucolic and grotesque, this scene is reminiscent of “The Garden of Earthly Delights” by Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1500) and appears at first glance like a monstrous battlefield. In the thick of the Cold War, whereas “Stukas” (1974) bluntly precipitates Nazi dive bombers in Vietnam, other Russian caricatures regarding Western foreign affairs whirl into the vertiginous perspectives of “La Bombe” and “Nato” (both 1977, from the series “L’Ouest vu de l’Est”). Finally in “Sarajevo” (1996, from the series “Target Practice”), which Erró made in reaction to the siege of the capital during the Bosnian War, it is an ethnic conflict between superheroes and villains that actually spreads unspeakable terror among civilians.
As a matter of fact, among the many American references that Erró has used throughout his career, comic characters – especially superheroes – cured his primary obsession with robotics while considerably pervading his art to the point that he even dedicated an entire series to them in the late 1990s, his “Saga of American Comics”. They are the central subject of the allover compositions “Good Morning America”, “Captain America” (both 1992) and “Wonderwoman scape” (1999) at Galerie Perrotin. That said, the artist’s survey continues with a completely different kind of pop icons in more recent paintings, including “Dogman” (2012), which stages the rapper Snoop Dogg with a bulldog and a sheep in shorts, and even more implausibly “Poutine et Miley Cyrus” (2013, from the series “Moscou-Berlin-Paris”), in which the singer twerks while sticking out her notorious tongue next to a topless caricature of the Russian president and Alfred E. Neuman, the mascot of Mad magazine.
Whereas Erró firmly renounced inventing his own imaginary figures to seize instead, voraciously, the inexhaustible iconography spread by mass media for over fifty years now, his paintings have never ceased to demonstrate, ironically, that reality is greatly stranger than fiction. In fact, while masterfully orchestrating through collage the absurdity and violence of our contemporary propagandas, whether political, commercial or cultural, his chaotic and outlandish visions trigger more than delirious impressions. In this regard, Erró’s contribution to Pop art is all the more exceptional that his oeuvre is deeply hallucinatory.
ERRÓ “Paintings from 1959 to 2016”
Exhibition Dates: March 1 – April 23, 2016
Opening Reception: Tuesday, March 1, 2016, 6-8pm
909 Madison Avenue
New York 10021