Rita Kernn-Larsen was a key artist for surrealism both nationally and internationally, but her later art has only rarely received the attention it deserves. In collaboration with Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg, Gammel Holtegaard
launches a major solo exhibition presenting the full range of the previously overlooked life-long oeuvre of the Danish artist.
Rita Kernn-Larsen (1904-1998) was a major figure on the international art scene, and one of the few contemporary, Danish surrealist artists to achieve major international recognition during the 1930s. Her breakthrough was based on surrealism, a reaction and attempt to break free from the rationality and utility mentality of the interwar years. The irrational and impulsive and instincts and desire were seen as universally human, and as providing a revolutionary background for the liberation of humankind.
Kernn-Larsens visual universe is populated by surreal, mysterious, and organic figures. She focuses on the female sex, eroticism, and the senses in a surrealist dreamworld where mouths, eyes, noses, hands and other bodily forms are usually seen floating free of time and place.
The Bigger Picture
Rita Kernn-Larsen worked outside Denmark most of her life. She alternated between the art capitals of Paris and London, where she was one of the Danish artists most closely involved with the international surrealist movement. During the 1930s she exhibited extensively in Denmark and abroad, alongside artists like Salvador Dalí, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Joan Miró, and Meret Oppenheim.
The exhibition SOLO: Rita Kernn-Larsen includes famous work by Kernn-Larsen, but also her later oeuvre, presented here to the general public for the first time. When the horrors of World War II brought a brutal end to surrealist painting, Kernn-Larsen had to reinvent herself as an artist and shifted visual focus from her inner landscape to the mountains of the South of France. Her figurative landscapes gradually fragmented in bold experiments resulting in pure abstraction. At the end of her career she turned to collages, re-establishing a connection with the surrealist works of her early career.
The exhibition presents more than 100 works by Rita Kernn-Larsen, including paintings, sketches and ceramics from the 1920s-1980s. The extensive range of works is on loan from national and international museums and private collections.
A Contemporary Take on Rita Kernn-Larsen
The Danish artist Kirstine Roepstorff (f. 1972) has created the exhibition design for SOLO: Rita Kernn-Larsen, aesthetically transforming the unique galleries of Gammel Holtegaard and showing Rita Kernn-Larsens oeuvre in a contemporary light.
Gl. Holtegaards current exhibition profile focuses on the juxtaposition of new and older art and architecture, aiming to to present contemporary and classical artworks that make history relevant and bring a fresh perspective to the age in which we live. Kirstine Roepstorffs elegant exhibition design is part of this, reinforcing the sensory and sensual dimensions of Rita Kernn-Larsens oeuvre. Kirstine Roepstorff is one of Denmarks leading contemporary artists. She represented Denmark at the 2017 Venice Biennale.
Rita Kernn-Larsen (1904-1998)
Born and raised in Hillerød, north of Copenhagen. Studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts from 1928-29, when she moved to Paris and started studying under Fernand Léger at Académie Moderne in 1930. From 1934 she was active in the surrealist movement associated with the Danish artists association Linien. Rita Kernn-Larsens surrealist works were included in landmark surrealism exhibitions in Copenhagen, New York, Paris and London, including Cubism-Surrealism, Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art (1935), Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism, MOMA (1936-37), and Exposition Internationale du Surrealisme, Galerie Beaux-Arts (1938). In 1938 she was also first surrealist artist to exhibit at Guggenheim Jeune, the London gallery of the influential gallerist and collector Peggy Guggenheim. From 1940 she lived in London before moving to the South of France after World War II. Rita Kernn-Larsen died in Denmark in 1998.
The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue bringing new research perspectives to Rita Kernn-Larsens role in Danish surrealism and addressing her entire oeuvre from a contemporary perspective. The contributors are MA Maria Kjær Themsen, PhD in art history Ulla Angkjær Jørgensen, and the poet, author and publisher Asger Schnack. The catalogue also includes a previously unpublished conversation between Rita Kernn-Larsen and art patron Finn Falkersby.
The catalogue includes inserts introducing Kirstine Roepstorffs exhibition design at both Gammel Holtegaard and Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg.
The exhibition catalogue will be published in Danish and English in September.