Zeno X Gallery is pleased to present Hell I Am, the new solo exhibition of Johannes Kahrs (b. 1965, Bremen). The paintings of Johannes Kahrs are always based on photographs or film stills. For years already he has been collecting images from magazines, newspapers or films, and he himself sometimes also picks up a camera. The flatness of his paintings suggests, as it were, the intermediary intervention of the screen. Through painting, Kahrs emancipates in a sense the image from its original context or frame of reference; anecdote and narrative are avoided. Thanks to interventions such as zooming, fragmentation and the shifting of perspective, he fictionalizes his ‘found images’ drawn from pop culture, advertising and (political) history. Reality is questioned by being recorded once more in an entirely new way. In addition, Kahrs problematizes the status and value of the image in contemporary visual culture.
The portraits in the exhibition thematize watching and being watched. The subject is confronted with a camera and has to assume a pose; while one stares into the lens, the other timidly tries to look away. Kahrs here sees a double parallel between the camera and the painting. On the one hand, the visitor to the exhibition is confronted with paintings and must answer the question as to how to deal with this medium. On the other hand, painting, like photographing, can have an invasive effect; the artist not only asks himself how he can picture the subject, but also how close he can get to it.
Various people portrayed are in a state of ecstasy, of physical pleasure or suffering. These emotional extremes lie beyond the possibilities of the medium of painting. For this reason, it is a challenge for Kahrs to try to bring these emotions to life. Works such as Untitled (dancing) and Untitled (j - back) rather show figures that want to withdraw from the gaze of the other. The result is an almost voyeuristic tension between the ecstatic men and the women who don’t want to be scrutinized.
Johannes Kahrs has had solo exhibitions at, among others, FRAC Île-de-France in Paris (2016), Kunsthalle Nürnberg (2014), Staatliche Kunstsammlungen in Dresden (2013), Art Centre Pasquart in Biel (2012), GAMeC in Bergamo (2007), Parasol Unit for Contemporary Art in London (2006), Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin (2002), FRAC Pays de la Loire in Carquefou (2001), Kunstverein München in Munich (2001) and S.M.A.K. in Ghent (2001). His work has featured in exhibitions in Centre Pompidou in Paris, Museum Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf, Dallas Museum of Art in Dallas, SFMOMA in San Francisco, National Portrait Gallery in London, Castello di Rivoli in Turin, Hayward Gallery in London, Bozar in Brussels, and many more.
The work of Johannes Kahrs is in the public collections of Centre Pompidou in Paris, MOCA in Los Angeles, MoMA in New York, UCLA Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, S.M.A.K. in Ghent, FRAC Auvergne in Clermont-Ferrand, Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, SFMOMA in San Francisco, FRAC Picardie in Amiens, FRAC Pays de la Loire in Carquefou, Fundaçao de Serralves in Porto, and others.