Ideas

Anna Kunz—The body is present

Posted by: Meg Duguid

Currently, painting is focused on structure and painters are focused on the formal, pushing and pulling against the edge of the canvas while drawing against the painting history that has come before.  At first blush, Anna Kunz is steeped within this moment, but in fact she is not pushing for or against painting history–she is undogmatic. Instead she uses painting as a medium to find the parameters of her own gesture and the viewing of painting to insinuate the viewer into mirroring her movements.  Kunz’s work is steeped in the performative—or more precisely it is set free by performances’ own more unflappable tendencies.  It is not a mythic work to be described, but a work of play that gathers the head into the body’s form and invites it to partake in any and every subtle resolution.  It functions as score and play enmeshed.

Kunz’s paintings are the result of many movements recorded through malleable materials over a sustained period of time.  Kunz draws from the visual traditions of the musical graphical scores of John Cage and Morton Feldman intermixed with Rudolf Laban’s visual notations of dance movements to create a class of scores.  She is a notator; her small paintings (scores) become an ambiguous record to eventually be played out on a larger scale.  Each time she goes into the studio, she begins with personal scoring exercises, where she is performer and viewer simultaneously charting each minuscule gesture.  The head-sized works are intimate documents of ambulations that convert color into a body whose resistance and friction become a marvelous presence. These graphical notations become the score by which she forms abyss into expanse.  It is in this moment that Kunz defines the performable visual field and claims her space.

In her studio, Kunz generates instants of the situational.  Her initial intimate wrist movements of her drawn scores succumb to grander gestures as her choreography increases to human-scale and finally to room-size.  These more intimate situational movements now give way to situational construction.  Her larger works are not stringently translated from the smaller ones, but instead the small scores are read and re-read two and three times over to create the larger pieces that are physically translated onto each other.  This sort of organized movement through graphic approximation can’t help but leave traces of Kunz’s physicality.  And the sheer magnitude of interlacing these works together in museum-scale installations creates a spectacle where Kunz’s body is larger than life.

Within this Kunzian structure, the audience is asked to step into her shoes, playing her graphical score and moving in tandem with the paint inhabiting the architecture.  In this way Kunz feminizes the entirety of the viewing experience.  The audience is not a bystander, but instead is implicated in Kunz’s specific motions creating a forced intimacy born out of spectacle.  In this implicit relationship Kunz has found a way to sidestep the decades-long misguided discussion of theatrical presence in performative artwork.  She has put that to bed in favor of earnest experience.  Within these considerable interpretative strategies at play, we are kept keenly aware that the body in all of its interpretations is always present.

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