The Gund



Information About the Event

On View

Buchwald-Wright Gallery, Free Admission


Ragnar Kjartansson


The Gund programs and exhibitions are made possible, in part, by The Gund Board of Directors and the Ohio Arts Council.


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Each of Ragnar Kjartansson's videos is a multi-layered exploration of human experience. By placing his characters in settings that defy expectations and challenge conventions, he invites audiences to reconsider their perceptions of reality and the mundane. The repetition that characterizes much of his work invites viewers to find mystery, beauty, and delight in the monotony and banality of everyday life. Unpredictable settings, repetitive motifs, tests of endurance, and the infusion of comical or nostalgic references are throughlines in his videos, while his use of music evokes a sense of collective belonging.

In The Man, the artist draws on certain conventions of landscape and portraiture by depicting the iconic American blues musician Pinetop Perkins (1913–2011). Originally from Belzoni, Mississippi, Perkins was a pivotal figure in the Delta blues scene, mastering both guitar and piano during its emergence. Kjartansson's portrayal of Perkins is within a broader historical context of white appreciation and the ongoing exploitation of Black musicians' innovation and ingenuity. Despite the deliberate setting—a lone upright piano placed amidst an empty field with a vacant farmhouse—the performance captures a spontaneous and unedited performance by Perkins, who is frail and possibly suffering from dementia. The video serves as a dual portrait: one of an elderly man nearing the end of his life and another of a musician of historical significance who embodies a fading musical tradition. Through The Man, Kjartansson encapsulates the essence of Perkins's legacy while shedding light on the complexities of race, representation, and cultural heritage in American history.

Through his video practice, Kjartansson invites viewers to engage with complex themes such as identity, memory, and the passage of time. He challenges us to reconsider our preconceived notions of truth and authenticity by blurring the lines between reality and fiction. The artist encourages us to embrace the inherent contradictions and ambiguities of the human experience, reminding us that life is a rich tapestry of paradoxes waiting to be explored.


Ragnar Kjartansson, Still from "The Man," 2010, video (duration 49 min). Collection of The Gund at Kenyon College.