Untitled (young man 1)
Johannes Kahrs ( German, 1965 )
Untitled (young man 1) is a haunting, extreme close-up of Ian Curtis, lead singer of the band Joy Division. Formed in England, Joy Division was a post-punk band known for its moody and atmospheric sound. Curtis was plagued with depression and a number of personal challenges (including epilepsy, which caused him to have seizures during performances), and in 1980 he committed suicide. Due to Kahrs’ strategic cropping, which removes any distinguishing markers, and the subject’s confrontational gaze directed at the viewer, the painting possesses an intimacy, even anxiety, yet simultaneously a feeling of removal.
Kahrs’ characteristic use of a cold gray, one that is “heavy, like lead, depressive,” adds to the emotional gravity of the work, as do the hazy, ghostly contours of Curtis’s face. It is likely, however, that most viewers would be unable to identify the subject. Kahrs believes, in fact, that the viewer need not know exactly what or who is depicted for the work to have its effect, as what we see before us is an acutely rendered portrait of human psychological intensity, a subject that is universally and powerfully recognizable.
Jeffrey Grove, DMA unpublished material, Variations on Theme: Contemporary Art 1950s - Present, 2012.