Brad Kahlhamer (b. Tucson, Arizona 1956) received his BFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and currently lives on New York City’s Lower East Side and works in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
Kahlhamer invites viewers to access his unique understanding of his surroundings or perhaps, alternative reality through several mediums, ranging from painting and sculpture to video and music. His work springs from a personal place, an exploration of his own ethnic and cultural identity; he is born Native American and was adopted at a young age by a German-American family. His Native American heritage permeates his practice, not only through visual aspects like colors, patterns, symbols like headdresses but also the materiality of the works spiritual components, like his totem poles and models figured on Hopi and Zuni Katsina dolls. The Native American aesthetic is always juxtaposed with urban street culture and/or a distinct American aesthetic such as brand logos, American landscape or nature life, pop and rock-cultural references. Kahlhamer has a professional background as an art director for Topps Company; manufacturer of confectionary like “Push-pop” and “Bazooka” bubblegum as well as collectible games and trading cards, he has created album covers for indie rock-bands The Kills and Man Man and currently plays in a rock band. He often makes use of feathers and material he has found on the streets of New York in his work. With a nod to abstract expressionism, in terms of practice Kahlhamers splashy, colorful yet intricate and enticing work are vivid depictions of his American identity.
Please Pay Me so I Can Pay Them
The Four Hairs is the artists third solo show at Andréhn-Schiptjenko. The Stockholm gallery was founded in 1991 by Ciléne Andréhn and Marina Schiptjenko today it is well established and ranks high on the international arena present at several of the leading fairs such as; Art Basel, Art Basel Hong Kong, Zona Maco and The Armory Show. The gallery has successfully launched the careers of several Scandinavians artists, including Annika von Hauswolff, Tobias Bernstrup, Omid Delafrouz, Katarina Löfström and Cajsa von Zeipel the latter two had work on view this year in New York at Moving Image Art Fair and at their booth in The Armory Show and, introduced internationally acclaimed artists to the Scandinavian market, Uta Baarth, José León Cerillo, Siobhán Hapaska, Nandipha Mntambo, Tony Matelli to name a few.
Sarah dream catch
Topps Platinum dream
On view in the light flooded galleries at Andréhn-Schiptjenko are seven wall pieces on paper, one on bed sheet and a sculptural totem pole all framing the large scale mixed media wall piece The Four Hairs(2012), the core of the exhibition. The Four Hairs measuring 120×120 inches tells a transcendental fluid story of coming of age, sexuality and consumerism, the remaining pieces of the exhibition deal with the themes independently. Stages of authority throughout life are portrayed adults, guardians, cliques in school, employers, lovers, muses and perhaps the most difficult authority of all, the mind. The spirituality and vivacious character of the work makes it look effortless, however Kahlhamer’s use of different materials in the show ranging from gouache, ink, oil on paper and textiles is exquisite shifting from clear to bleeding lines and abstract to figurative forms. Kahlhamers studio in Bushwick is his work space and also a reflection of his artistry; he has a collection of taxidermy animals on display in a bookshelf and the creative process of his sculptural figures can be followed throughout the studio, his birds are at one stage placed outside the window for weathering. As in taxidermy the character or movement of an animal is captured Kahlhamer’s work captures a moment or an idea and vividly almost musically portrays it to the observer.
Brad Kahlhamer’s work has been accessible to a larger public during the past six months with two versions of “Bowery Nation” on view, at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City and his gallery Jack Shainman, New York as well as work was on view in the booths of his New York and Stockholm galleries during The Armory Show. He was previously represented by Deitch Projects with a short stint at Horton Gallery. Very different from the exhibition at Andréhn-Schiptjenko “Bowery Nation” is the culmination of a long-term sculptural project, it is populated by one hundred foot-high figures that the artist has worked on since 1985 inspired by Hopi and Zuni Katsina dolls and twenty-two birds mostly made out of material found on New York’s Lower East Side. After seeing them in New York Holland Cottar of New York Times wrote “And the sculptures themselves convey mixed messages. No two alike, together they’re as vivaciously inventive as Calder’s “Circus.” But they’re also morbid, death-haunted, a circus risen from the grave.” Forthcoming he has a solo show at Jack Shainman and his work is included in Musée du Quai Branly, Paris exhibition The Art and Life of the Plains Indians which is scheduled to travel to Nelson Atkins Museums of Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Brad Kahlhamer is the recipient of several prestigious awards including Joan Mitchell Award, Smithsonian Commission and The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award. His work has been collected by institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Denver Art Museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.
The Four Hairs is open at Andréhn-Schiptjenko, Stockholm through March 29th, 2014.
If you are in New York, Fort Gotham Girls+Boys Club runs March 28th– April 26th, 2014 at Jack Shainman Gallery in Chelsea.
All images courtesy Andrèhn-Schiptjenko.
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Anna Mikaela Ekstrand is editor-in-chief and founder of Cultbytes. She mediates art through writing, curating, and lecturing. Her latest books are Assuming Asymmetries: Conversations on Curating Public Art Projects of the 1980s and 1990s and Curating Beyond the Mainstream. Send your inquiries, tips, and pitches to firstname.lastname@example.org.