Exhibitions, Portrait

Exploring intimacy and anonymity on New York subways

Karel Funk, Untitled #76, 2016, Acrylic on panel, 61 x 61 cm, Unique artwork, courtesy 303 Gallery, New York Installation view, Hugo Aveta, El Silencio del Mundo, NextLevel Galerie, 2016. Image: F. Kleinfenn Courtesy the artists and NextLevel Galerie

The first European and Paris solo exhibition by the Winnipeg based artist Karel Funk, known for his mesmerizing portraits of lone figures, is about to launch in Paris.

Funk’s meditative portraits of hooded figures are responses to conflicting senses of intimacy and anonymity he experienced on New York subways.

Throughout Funk’s engagement with the series, the subject’s face has been visible. But, in his most recent work, the human face has been increasingly replaced by images of bundled, crumpled, and knotted outerwear. If we see only the jacket – but we know there’s someone wearing it, that they are looking at something, and hiding themselves from us.

Funk has a basement full of jackets, uses models and takes hundreds of photographs. Beginning as photographs, the works are presented as acrylic paintings on wood panels that portray people wearing hooded jackets. it.

The figures that populate most of Funk’s works are, the artist says, inspired by the Italian and Northern Renaissance to Photorealism. In that sense, in this setting a jacket is a muse – a window through which  he can explore his creative ideas.

“These modern Gore-Tex kind of synthetic hoods … reference contemporary life,” he told the Winnipeg Globe and Mail in an interview.

“But the hood I thought would also reference Renaissance portraiture. So slowly I developed this idea that it could be a bridge between contemporary life and art history.

“I’ll pose them in different poses, move the light around. I like to crinkle up the jacket. It’s hard – the jackets don’t always stay crinkled. Sometimes I’ll use tape or tissue paper under the jacket to kind of sculpt the jacket a certain way.”

Funk’s work is held in major museum collections, including the Guggenheim and the Whitney in New York, the National Gallery of Canada, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Karel Funk received an MFA from Columbia University in New York in 2003. Funk has had solo museum shows at Rochester Art Center (Rochester, MN) in 2009 and Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montreal in 2007.

His work is in the public collections of the Guggenheim Museum, Whitney Museum, LACMA, SFMOMA and the National Gallery of Canada, as well as many private collections.

Funk recently opened his first museum retrospective at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. He lives and works in Winnipeg.

Karel Funk is on display at NextLevel Galerie, Paris, from 5 November 2016 – 14 January 2017. More information is available here.