In partnership with Drag City, Blum & Poe is pleased to present Friedrich Kunath's Songs Build Little Rooms in Time – an exhibition born of an ongoing collaboration between the artist and the late David Berman.
From the time of his first solo show Why Are My Friends Such Finks, with Dirk Bell at the BQ Gallery in Cologne, Kunath has drawn inspiration from all aspects of his everyday life including what was spinning on the turntable. The title for that first show, for instance, borrowed a line from a song written by Will Oldham & David Berman. In a sense, this was the beginning of the mind-meld that led to the collaboration between Berman and Kunath, Songs Build Little Rooms in Time, opening at Soccer Club Club on December 7, 2019.
Around 2012, Berman and Kunath worked actively together on the book, You Owe Me a Feeling, with Berman providing notebooks to Kunath from which he derived text for the finished work. Several years later, as Berman was struggling to make sense in music again for the first time in a decade, he noted the use of his lyrics in a later collection of Kunath's work. This discovery led to discussion between the two on the reasonable nature of such inclusion, developing from something that seemed almost antagonistic on Berman's part into an eventual understanding: they would find things to show and tell between themselves and in the process, create a show in cooperation. Berman forwarded recordings that became the eventual Purple Mountains album, and between their shared interests – music, an obsession with tchotchkes, the writing of Thomas Bernhard and other favorite philosophic and rabbinical texts – they had plenty of common ground. In the course of their correspondence, Berman sent additional words and images from his travels on the road toward finishing the Purple Mountains album as well as pictures of the Soccer Club Club, the space which he loved to commandeer when in Chicago (whether it was offered or not).
This alliance was successful – with more than enough material to work with, Kunath was deep in his process, relocating these expressions outside of their natural habitat. The painter was in the final stages of this work when Berman unexpectedly passed. The nature of the show is somber, as anything derived from the source material of Berman's final songs might be – but the playfulness, the romance of sudden discovery penetrating ennui that is central to both Kunath and Berman's work is there as well. This work casts the contrasts of American life that fascinated Berman, with high and low values revolving in imperfect accord with the small details and dream-like juxtaposition of inner and outer landscapes that makes Kunath's work its own. All these things (and more that cannot be said here), form the seventeen new works that make Songs Build Little Rooms in Time – a remix album of sorts in the lives of David Berman and Friedrich Kunath.
A book produced on the occasion of the show is forthcoming, designed by longtime mutual friend and collaborator Michael Schmelling, co-published by Blum & Poe and Drag City.