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Selected Works

In Memory Of Jimmy Cooper

oil on canvas
182.8 x 243.8 cm.; 72 x 96 in.
Photo: Dawn Blackman

Love Means Zero, 2023

oil on canvas
152.4 x 121.9 cm.; 60 x 48 in.
Photo: Dawn Blackman

Viva Last Blues, 2023

oil on canvas
243.8 x 198.1 cm.; 96 x 78 in.
Photo: Robert McKeever

The Art Of Surviving November, 2023

oil on canvas
213.4 x 182.8 cm.; 84 x 72 in.
Photo: Robert McKeever

I Used To Be Cool, 2023

oil on canvas
122.5 x 98 x 3.8 cm.; 48 1/4 x 38 5/8 x 1 1/2 in.

Romantic Times, 2022

oil on canvas
274.3 x 198.1 x 4.4 cm.; 108 x 78 x 1 3/4 in. 

I Paint The Inside Of Things, 2022

acrylic on canvas
205.7 x 213.4 x 3.8 cm.; 81 1/4 x 84 x 1 1/2 in. 

I Know I Need A Small Vacation, 2022

oil on canvas
243.8 x 321.3 x 6.3 cm.; 96 x 126 1/2 x 2 1/2 in. 

I Don't Worry Anymore, 2021–2022

oil on canvas
153.6 x 123.1 cm.; 60 1/4 x 48 1/2 in.
154.6 x 124.1 cm.; 60 5/8 x 48 7/8 in. (framed)

‘Friedrich Kunath describes himself as a fanatical Oasis fan and a passionate tennis player. As an artist he paints heartbreaking pictures of romantic longings which often reveal a bitter flip side. In his artworks, his GDR past is as omnipresent as the Californian postcard idyll of his new home. Professionally, he considers himself more a director or composer than a serious painter: He reassembles opposing fragments and lyrics, that in combination, open up new dimensions – between melancholy and irony, love and loss, poetry and politics, Nietzsche and Goofy – and reveals the complex simultaneity and contradictory duality of our lives. Kunath wants to touch us through what touches him. He brings light into darkness, pain into pleasure, and by that, creates the irresistible pull of his colorful paintings, not without humor or self-irony.’

B. Krause, ‘Opposites that Attract: An interview with Friedrich Kunath’, in Zoo Magazine, no. 67, summer issue, 2020

Took A Long Time To Get Here, 2021

oil on canvas
121.9 x 91.4 x 3.8 cm.; 48 x 36 x 1 1/2 in. 

On The Beach, 2020–2021

oil on canvas
213.36 x 182.88 x 3.81 cm.; 84 x 72 x 1 1/2 in.

Unspecified Sadness, 2020–2021

oil on canvas, bronze
223.5 x 309.9 x 3.8 cm.; 88 x 122 x 1.5 in.

One Minute You're Here, 2020–2021

oil on canvas, in 3 parts
overall: 244 x 594 cm.; 96 x 233 7/8 in.

‘The Nick Drake figure also serves as a stand-in for the artist […], this aspect becomes clear in the large triptych One Minute You’re Here. The title of this painting refers to a well know American expression: “One minute you’re here, and the next you are gone”. Leaving out the second part of this sentence embodies in a way Kunath’s whole approach to painting: “I believe painting starts where words end. When language ends, painting starts. And I feel like I was thinking of that a lot with One Minute You’re Here. In your mind you hear ‘the next you are gone’, but you don’t see it. The painting steps in for the rest of the sentence. I feel like it is a bit more nuanced how I work with words now […]. It is not as loud, or doesn’t go straight for the oneliner”. Besides the music reference of Nick Drake, this painting also contains a lot of the artist’s other personal passions. There is a truck driving through the landscape which transports the Parfum les must de Cunath. Kunath himself has an extensive collection of perfumes and often uses a particular sent to finish off the atmosphere of his shows. A bit further in the landscape, you can also find a strangely placed tennis court, which reflects his passion for the sport. These are just a glimpse of all the different anecdotes and traces hidden within this painting, which illustrates the invasiveness of the narratives Kunath is willing to share with his viewers.’

K. Loret, New Ballads, exh. cat., Tim Van Laere Gallery, Antwerp; Antwerp: Tim Van Laere Books, 2021, n.p.

I Want to go Home, But I am Home, 2020–2021

oil on canvas
239 x 305 cm.; 94 1/8 x 120 1/8 in.

‘When you stand in front of the painting I Want to go Home, But I am Home, the first thing you see is the enlarged image of the troong horse in the landscape. Once you start to look closer, you can see that the horse is infected by the surface of the canvas, which has texts and doodles scratched in the layers of paint underneath. “The way I always start the painting is as an abstract,” says Kunath about his process. “Then I have a monologue with the painting, writing things in the painting as I am applying the paint. This is the unconscious. Once my unconscious, my input, is on the painting, it dries and hardens out. After that, the representative image is applied. In this case the horse. Then the unconscious comes through the conscious. And that’s what I love about this process, how it is kind of humming through”.’

K. Loret, New Ballads, exh. cat., Tim Van Laere Gallery, Antwerp; Antwerp: Tim Van Laere Books, 2021, n.p.

I Restored My Will To Live Again, 2020

acrylic and oil on canvas
152.4 x 121.9 x 3.8 cm.; 60 x 48 x 1 1/2 in.

‘For years I haven’t really done anything but pushing things to and fro. It’s a kind of collage process. When I’m happy with something I haul the collage onto the photocopier and make a kind of layered copy out of maybe eight different sources. For example, a painting by Carl Spitzweg, an ad for Lanvin perfume, and a postcard someone sent me. Then there’s sometimes a canvas that I’ve marinated, two days earlier, with watercolors. It could for example have a waterfall or a sunset on it.’

F. Kunath in conversation with T. Feldhaus, ‘Friedrich Kunath’s Elegant Failures’, ssense, 30 November 2021

Never Liked You, But Still Nostalgic, 2020

oil on canvas
243.8 x 198.1 cm.; 96 x 78 in.

‘I was asked again and again why I paint sunsets and beautiful landscapes. That is because I can only “heal” when I first bring you into the painting, into the idyll, which, however, behaves then like a Trojan horse. I want to lure you into the picture first, and when you’re there, I can still hit you over the head. It’s so easy to paint a bad picture and rely on the radicality of the difficult. That can’t be enough. I always look for poetry, fantasy and lyricism as well. That is more difficult because you are more condemned for it than for the bad painting. It’s always easier to say, “fuck you” than, “I love you”.’ 

F. Kunath in conversation with B. Krause, ‘Opposites that Attract: An interview with Friedrich Kunath’, in Zoo Magazine, no. 67, summer issue, 2020

First Life Takes Time, Then Time Takes Life (Purple Mountains), 2019

oil on canvas
152.4 x 121.9 cm.; 60 x 48 in.

‘Friedrich [Kunath] and David [Cloud Berman] had been friends, correspondents, and collaborators for several years before they undertook the venture that became the show Songs Build Little Rooms in Time. […] With its dual horizons built from the conceit of the title First Life Takes Time, Then Time Takes Life, Friedrich conceived of a revolving piece, part merry-go-around, part spinning coin-flip – every sunset becoming a sunrise again in a soothingly idyllic landscape. It’s a key, a quintessential work in the show, its existence unthinkable without the collaboration of both artists and the bumpy relationship between hope and pessimism that they both knew too well.’

Songs Build Little Rooms in Time, exh. cat., Soccer Club Club, Chicago; Los Angeles/Chicago: Blum & Poe/Drag City, 2021, n.p.

All My Fears Trapped Inside, 2019

mixed media installation
dimensions variable

Day Is Done, 2018

acrylic and oil on canvas
122 x 91.5 cm.; 48 x 36 in.

‘In recent years, Kunath has garnered much acclaim for his sunset paintings: slick airbrushed canvases sometimes hosting a splash of text or maybe featuring a bored shipwrecked-looking guy with his head in his hands. “Sunsets are a such problematic image, which is part of what drew me to them,” Kunath says. “They're so empty. Sunsets and rainbows. They're the saxophone solos of art. It allows me the opportunity to make them full again. To find a way past the irony and have them become a sincere statement”.’

A. Nelson, 'Inside Friedrich Kunath’s Amazing World of Sublime Art, Classic Cars and Obscure Scents’, in GQ Magazine, 27 November 2017

Last Equations, 2017

wood, canvas, glass, lights, acrylic, graphite and ink, in 2 parts
wall: 274.3 x 183.5 x 14 cm.; 108 x 72 1/4 x 5 1/2 in.
painting: 213.4 x 152.4 x 3.2 84 x 60 x 1 1/4 in.

I Will Be Modern Until The Day I Die (Color), 2017

acrylic, socks, metal
99.7 x 61 x 50.8 cm.; 39 1/4 x 24 x 24 in.

We could be looking for the same thing, 2016

oil, acrylic and ink on canvas
205.7 x 281.9 cm.; 81 x 111 in.
Collection: Los Angeles County Museum of Art

‘We are often skeptical of the unguarded, like a stranger who shares too much too easily. That kind of honesty and trust can end badly. But it is Kunath’s use of the absurd – in humour, in the Romantic, in the “confrontation between human need and the unreasonable silence of the world”, – that gives his work its singularity. […] The absurdity in Kunath’s work is peculiar and specific. Like a pickpocket, it charms with a wink, a feint both elusive and illusive. This is because he creates such an evocative narrative voice. If there is a literary element in Kunath’s work, it is this narrator, this subjectivity that both is and is not the artist himself.’

M. Thompson, ‘Ecstatic Disappearance’, in Friedrich Kunath: Home wasn’t built in a day, exh. cat., Kunstverein Hannover, Hanover; Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2009, pp. 63–64

You're Only Lonely, 2016

acrylic on canvas
90.8 x 161.9 x 3.8 cm.; 35 3/4 x 63 3/4 x 1 1/2 in.

‘Probably music [inspires me] most of all. Music is like breathing. I do it every day and every night. Buying, archiving, listening, talking, and reading about it. It’s more than sounds in a room. What does it do to me? Maybe I am a musician manqué. Maybe I am playing guitar with the paintbrush.’

F. Kunath in conversation with T. Feldhaus, ‘Friedrich Kunath’s Elegant Failures’, ssense, 30 November 2021

Just Don't Be Yourself, 2016

acrylic and ink on paper
252 x 587 cm.; 99.2 x 231.1 in.

‘“I feel that it’s the very engine of my work, this longing for a place that doesn’t exist – it’s an empty promise,” he explains. “LA is an empty promise – I am fully aware of it – but I also love it. I love the stupidity, and I love the substance and the narratives that the city provides.” It’s clear Kunath doesn’t take his work too seriously – and perhaps in these sober times we’re in need of more artists like him.’

F. Kunath and J. Klingelfuss, ‘Friedrich Kunath on pushing paint and why he loves the “empty promise” of Los Angeles’, in Wallpaper, 10 June 2018

You Know We Cant Go Back, 2015

acrylic on canvas, metal, engine, cable
263 x 263 x 17.5 cm.; 92 7/8 x 92 7/8 x 6 7/8 in.
Collection: Centre Pompidou, Paris

‘Time-travel is not an option: You Know We Can’t Go Back is the title of another painting – featuring a pair of heavy, pseudo-eighteenth-century sunset or sunrise landscapes, one on each end, and rotating hypnotically on the wall […], while ominous music by the 1970s German art-rock band Popol Vuh surges from an iPod dock.’

M. Herbert, ‘Friedrich Kunath’, in Artforum, vol. 54 no. 4, December 2015, p. 271–272

Famous Last Words, 2012

oil and acrylic on canvas
54.6 x 55.9 cm.; 21 1/2 x 22 in.

Actually, I Don't, 2012

vinyl, printed on fiberglass, metal
diameter: 100 x 36 cm.; 39 3/8 x 14 1/8 in.

‘Nostalgia can be very […] And I don’t at all want to go back, but forward. In the end nostalgia means memory without the pain, and once you’ve realized that, there’s an amazing technique for dealing with it: irony.’

F. Kunath in conversation with T. Feldhaus, ‘Friedrich Kunath’s Elegant Failures’, in ssense, 30 November 2021

Untitled, 2006

mixed media on canvas
65.1 x 84.8 cm.; 25 5/8 x 33 3/8 in.
Collection: Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh

‘No matter how many possible stories are evoked by Kunath’s works – they do not come to a resolution. The question as to where from, where to, and wherefore remains open. What is let behind is an indefinite sentiment of comical tragedy, of failure, of the melancholy of an uncompleted narration. It is a fine line which causes Friedrich Kunath’s works to top from optimistic upsurge to resignation and failure. Or from humour to melancholy.’

R. Zechlin, ‘At the Other End of the Ladder’, in Friedrich Kunath: Home wasn’t built in a day, exh. cat., Kunstverein Hannover, Hanover; Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2009, p. 84

Untitled (Birdhouse), 2006

enamel and varnish on wood and sheet metal
233.6 x 25.5 x 92 cm.; 92 x 10 x 36 1/4 in.
Collection: Hessel Museum of Art, Annandale-On-Hudson

‘Appearing again and again in the works of Friedrich Kunath is the image of the ladder and of steps. But for whom? The protagonist has already departed from the respective scene. There is the long, thin ladder, for instance which leads up to a black birdhouse (Untitled, 2006). Or does it lead downward? Since there is no bird to be seen in the little shelter, the ladder seems more likely to lead downward. The absurdity of a ladder next to a birdhouse turns into a plaintive situation, as soon as one thinks about it. A bird which cannot use its wings and hence must make do with a ladder? Or a young bird which ventures out into the wide world before it has learned how to fly? Or does the ladder lead upward after all, positioned there by a cat trying to reach the bird?’

R. Zechlin, ‘At the Other End of the Ladder’, in Friedrich Kunath: Home wasn’t built in a day, exh. cat., Kunstverein Hannover, Hanover; Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2009, p. 83

About Soufflé, 2004

DVD, sound colour
duration: 32:50 min.
edition of 10
Collection: Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem

‘The strongest work in the show is About Soufflé, a nearly 33-minute video exploration of the conflict between freedom and isolation, alienation and escape. To the agitated sound of urgent violins, Kunath repeatedly runs from right to let across the visual field. At regular intervals he makes a little leap – and the scenery changes, as if he’s jumped from one locale into another; Urban, suburban, rural, tropical, populated, desolate the scenes range far and wide. These edits – literal jump cuts – don’t always match Kunath’s awkward, leaps: The disjunction only adds to the sense of jumpy nervousness I’m his perpetual flight. A contemporary variation on a traditional theme – Where do we, come from? Where are we going –, this acutely observed portrait of manic desperation veers between comic and tragic, setting, just the right tone.’

C. Knight, ‘Kunath Does Odd Work, But Well’, in Los Angeles Times, 16 April 2004, E32

Untitled, 2003

acrylic and metallic paint on linen
214 x 112.4 cm.; 84 1/4 x 44 1/4 in.

‘A black door. A prism of rainbow light stretching into the eternal abyss. The words: “If You Leave Me Can I Come Too?” Everything about the human condition seems to be contained in this simple 2003 painting by Friedrich Kunath. An image of pathos, heartbreak, and paradox, it is a beacon for both the impossibility and inevitability of death. In a world that often balks at the idea of anything overtly sentimental, Kunath mines the language of sentiment with the right balance of sincerity, emotion, and melancholic humor. In other words, he gives us permission to feel.’

C. Anderson, ‘Exquisite L.A.: Claressinka Anderson on Friedrich Kunath’, in Carla, issue 19, Spring 2020, pp. 46–47

Unless otherwise stated, all photos courtesy of the artist
All works: © Friedrich Kunath