Freight + Volume is pleased to announce Loren (aka James Kalm-artworld-bicycling-reporter-at-large) Munk’s first solo exhibition at the gallery. Munk lives, breathes and thinks art. He is a: painter, draftsman, teacher, curator, art writer, and videographer. He wears many interchangeable hats, but most importantly he is an artist, and he depicts the artist’s history. Munk asserts, “It's my contention that for far too long forces outside the arts community have exerted control over the ‘history’ and therefore the ‘value’ of artistic production…. I have attempted to provide an alternative ‘history’ and therefore a different set of values for consideration. I would hope this provokes other artists to greater self-actualization, and to take the ideas of ‘history’ and ‘legacy’ into their own hands.”
A ubiquitous figure throughout NYC and boroughs, at countless art events and openings (riding his bike in all seasons) Kalm/Munk interviews artists on their work, passions, and inspirations through his series The Kalm Report. He mines the collective consciousness about what art is and what artists are creating. The videos serve as documentation of what artists are undertaking today. Through both his video series and paintings Kalm/Munk focuses on documenting the art world. He literally paints a historical path that explains the journey art has taken to get where it is today. In an interview with Hrag Vartanian, for Art 21’s blog, Kalm states, “My announced goal with The Kalm Report has always been to show people not only the art in the New York City scene, but to dig deeper and try and show the real art world, the behind the scenes stuff…”
The paintings in You Are Here are vibrant maps depicting a moment in history, and they tackle the subject of art itself through an historical and diagrammatic lens. When talking about his interest in maps Munk explains, “Well, in brief, I was a boy scout and we had to learn to read maps when we went camping so as not to get lost. Later, while serving in the Army in Germany, I was tasked with training soldiers to read maps so they could plot nuclear fallout.” For Munk, maps equate survival, the ability to know where one is, and the capability to survey an environment.
Munk is filled with a spirit of optimism, enthusiasm and liveliness. He loves art and artists. He is making the work because he deeply believes in art. He mapped the histories of artists so the right stories – the artist’s stories – get told. He states, “I started thinking about what the most important thing about ‘art’ was. It didn't take long to realize that the community of artists and its history were paramount… If creative people were able to relate to all this historical information and see how they fit in, it might support and inspire their own work and reduce their sense of alienation. I hoped it would help reinforce the connections of community.”
The paintings thoroughly map the addresses and dates that artists worked in their neighborhoods. The paintings are a visual database for artists working in New York City. They are painted with dazzling and nauseating colorful lines that snap off the canvases, demanding attention. His affection for the art community is shown when painting his colleagues’ names. His garish use of color forces us to remember each name of every artist who was there and part of the scene. The paintings are filled with the likely suspects William de Kooning, Chuck Close, and Jasper Johns but also the artists who built and sustained the communities they lived and worked in. Munk asks us to look at what actually happened, and to notice all the artists that create the art world, including all the ones who work side by side, but are forgotten by art history. Munk breathes new life into their names and reminds us of their significance. Munk states, “…it's important for people to realize that they are living in a very historical time, in a very important place.”
The exhibition You Are Here is filled with a series of maps, diagrams, and flow charts that depict the relationships and influences of artists, art movements, exhibitions, curators and political events. Munk declares that, “Another element is ‘failure factor’ that mirrors any attempt to create history… No history is ‘true’, perfect or complete. I know I can't provide an unimpeachable record, but just the idiotic challenge might spur individuals to remember more.” History is always written by the ones who win, they are the powerful figures that live on well past their death. Munk challenges this concept and asks people to record their own history. He sees the world around him crammed with the brightest minds, and many of whom will be forgotten in terms of history. Munk believes that these creative individuals are worth remembering, and are the reason he believes in art.
The exhibition places you in the middle of the art scene - painting is dead and is reborn in the same painting. Munk goes on to state, “Art is not static, its dynamic changes can be charted and perhaps predicted.” His paintings take you on a journey through history. The work confronts and tracks trends within the art world, and it is uncannily cyclical.
And, finally, the paintings are brimming with data. They are overwhelming. Images and text collide and clash. Timelines are formed and broken. Artists are remembered and forgotten. The paintings explain what took place, and when it happened. They explain the lives of artists. It is art history told by an artist who was and is an active participant.
Loren Munk is known for his cubistic paintings that combine urban imagery with exhaustive historic research, complex systems of thinking and painterly finesse. Since his SoHo debut in 1981, Munk has overseen an international career that includes exhibitions throughout the United States as well as Brazil, France and Germany. Most recently, Munk has been producing a series of paintings that tackle the subject of art itself through a historical and diagrammatic lens. In addition to his studio work, Munk is also a writer and curator. In his role as the Uber-chronicler of the New York art scene, Munk is known by his alias, James Kalm. Through his famed online video program, The Kalm Report, Munk tours artist's studios, gallery exhibits and art world events throughout New York City. The artist lives and works in Red Hook, Brooklyn.