Mie Olise Kjærgaard: “Bastard Monuments” at Samuel Freeman

"Ship, Boats, House on Stilts,” 2016, Mie Olise Kjærgaard

“Ship, Boats, House on Stilts,” 2016, Mie Olise Kjærgaard, Acrylic on canvas, 86″ x 103″
Photo: courtesy Samuel Freeman

There is a wondrous strange to the ramshackle instability of the architectural constructions envisioned by Danish artist Mie Olise Kjærgaard. For nearly a decade, Kjærgaard has developed a repertoire of thematic devices combining personal visions with iconic symbols. The artist’s distinctive architectonic swaths of paint give rise to disjointed buildings elevated on stilts or, alternatively, take the form of tall ships impossibly anchored against an empty sky—both of which can be reached by twisting ladders that warily hover between translucence and opacity. Inevitably, the romantic epoch is evoked, whether conjuring the interior phantasms of deserted structures or symbolic life journeys taken across the open sea. In her current series, on view at Samuel Freeman gallery, the dilapidated buildings give way to the prominent theme of “Bastard Monuments,” D.W. Griffith’s vision of Babylon complemented with pineapples and rearing elephants on pedestals.

The plausibility of Kjærgaard’s architectural fictions is rooted in the artist’s background in the subject, earning her MA at the Aarhus School of Architecture in 2001. In the past, this interest has brought the artist face-to-face with the ruins of yesteryear, in particular the shifting histories of buildings created from one purpose, but abandoned and later repurposed into something quite different. She first explored this idea in a series titled “Dishonest Constructions,” and it is from these which the current “Bastard Monuments” series progresses. In place of the ahistorical buildings, she crafts references to the distinctly historical, and notoriously disastrous, Intolerance (1916). The epic set’s Ishtar façade becomes the focal point of the artist’s current archeological dig. This spirit of exploration is palpable in the haphazard arrangement of motifs and media on view, which Kjærgaard pushes these to the point of collapse, quite literally: a painted canvas hangs loosely suspended on stilts, a portrait of a pineapple somehow secured against the wall by a folding chair tilted (a nod to Kosuth and Serra?), and Backlot Bastard, an installation that seems to have simply collapsed on the gallery floor consisting of wallpaper, wood sheet, dirt from the film set of Intolerance, lamp, bricks, wood and steel (2017). But while the motifs unite many of the works on view, others seem resolutely independent, almost alarmingly disconnected from this adventure. Where do Elephants and Angelsconverge with Ship, Boats, House on Stilts (both 2016)? Perhaps more to the point, considering the bravura of each, why should they? Kjærgaard’s message of architectural “dishonesties” is achieved and amplified through this discord, and ultimately echo the disjuncture of our postmodern reality.

Originally published in art ltd. magazine (March/April 2017)


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