Friedrich Kunath Book Signing
Blum & Poe is pleased to announce the publication of You Owe Me A Feeling, a new book by Los Angeles-based artist Friedrich Kunath. This is Kunath's first artist book published in the United States. You Owe Me A Feeling was conceived and produced in conjunction with Kunath's September-October 2012 exhibition at Blum & Poe, titled Lacan's Haircut. In making the book, Kunath collaborated with the musician and poet David Berman and photographer Michael Schmelling (a frequent collaborator with Kunath). Berman and his band Silver Jews have been an on-going influence on Kunath and his work since the late 1990s.
You Owe Me A Feeling was largely inspired by Kunath's interest in the work of Rod McKuen, the prolific, populist poet and songwriter, who published over two dozen mass-market books of poetry in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Throughout many of these books, photographs of the author in a variety of congenial, almost generic, settings accompany the poems. He appears from page to page, always alone, but seemingly content - the arch-romantic.
In Kunath's book, the protagonist is the artist. He is the male cliché of a drifter - a character that could perhaps only survive in Los Angeles and that could easily inhabit one of Kunath's paintings. He wanders through the book, and the photographs, with what Kunath calls a "self-proclaimed radical elegance." He lives on his own terms with his own aesthetics and is somehow disconnected in a city that is all about connection. Kunath has built a visual world that constantly plays with the cliché of what it is to be an artist, or not.
The book's text is comprised of a series of single lines written by Berman. Between 1998 and 2005, Berman had a practice of writing twenty lines every day, which was inspired by the writings of Harry Matthews (and following Stendahl's dictum "twenty lines a day, genius or not"). While some of these lines made their way onto the Silver Jews records American Water, Bright Flight, and Tanglewood Numbers, the majority were left behind in a stack of spiral-bound notebooks. At Berman's suggestion, Kunath and Schmelling traveled to Nashville to read the notebooks and extract lines that fit with the themes and images that had been conceived for the book. Berman's lines and lyrics range from the humorous to dour, but the overall sensation is one of an optimistic sadness. It's a feeling similar to what Kunath has been working towards throughout his practice. Oppositional or contrary themes often appear multiple times within a single painting: romanticism and classicism, German and American, kitsch and glamour, slapstick and sentimentality, and the everyday and the surreal. In a very abstract sense, You Owe Me A Feeling is a guide, a self-help book. Berman's lines function as a series of deadpan truths - from the throwaway to what may become the lifelong, aphoristic companions of one's soul.
"This life is not for you. It took forever to get home. Time is bullshit with top spin. He had goals but didn't call them goals. Bad ideas are good again. I will be modern until the day I die. There's never enough sunset for all the birds. Me is my nickname. Passing out is traveling. You're going to need a lot of memory to live with me. It was sunset and I felt a strong joy of getting away with it so far. I went down to the crossroads and there was a mirror planted in the road. Love is the 51st state." -- David Berman
You Owe Me A Feeling by Friedrich Kunath; text by David Berman; photographs by Michael Schmelling. 144 Pages, 74 Color Photographs, 12 reproductions of Kunath's paintings. Published by Blum & Poe, Los Angeles. Distributed in the United States by D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers.