Kahn + Selesnick : Truppe Fledermaus and the Carnival at the End of the World
Mar 14 – May 4, 2013
Robischon Gallery is proud to feature its third solo exhibition for acclaimed New York/British collaborative duo Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick. With their latest series “Truppe Fledermaus & the Carnival at the End of the World,” the artists’ highly imaginative, multi-medium series utilizes large and small scale photography, painting, drawing, prints and sculptures – all in service of their startlingly original visual narratives. Together since the 1980s, Kahn + Selesnick have invented inexplicable, yet visually invigorating historiographies – adventures in which there is no division between fact and fiction. As in their previous works seen at Robischon Gallery, such as the “Apollo Prophecies” – a story which merged the American space program of the 1960s with the Edwardian era and “Eisbergfreistadt” where a mammoth iceberg in 1923 Germany causes hyperinflation; Kahn + Selesnick’s newest series compellingly maintains the same preposterous incongruity while weaving past characters and locations into its mix.
Inspired by Italian philosopher Giulo Camillo’s 1550 Memory Theater, “Truppe Fledermaus” tells the visual tale of a chimerical cabaret troupe traversing the outskirts of imaginary and recognizable towns where their inscrutable performances play repeatedly for no one. Dressed as bats, greenmen and death dancers, Kahn + Selesnick’s characters only preform for the resident animals and themselves. As a metaphor for contemporary society’s on-going disengagement from the larger world while being bombarded with massive quantities of cultural information, Truppe Fledermaus similarly travels on, prolifically advertising its performances for plays never seen. A cast of characters led by Truppe founders, Orlofsky and Falke, along with Madame Lulu, the Plague Doctor, the Green Wanderer and 1970s British television character Reginald Perrin share the series storyline with Birdmen as messengers and the endangered Bat as the shaman. The bat represents both nature and humanity as it struggles to see itself as inextricably linked in order to change its course before their disastrous fate of extinction is sealed.
In “Truppe Fledermaus”, as in past series, Kahn + Selesnick’s playful, yet portentous mix of characters, time periods and genres purposefully blur lines and allow for suspension of disbelief while creatively illuminating societal shortcomings. Through their signature cinematic approach, the artists present the engaged viewer with seemingly inexhaustible imagery and its potential for metaphor; a manner of experience not unlike the modern world.
Kahn & Selesnick held artist residencies at Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts; the Djerrasi Artist Program, Woodside, California; and Toni Morrison’s Atelier Program at Princeton University, New Jersey. Their work has been shown in more than eighty solo exhibitions throughout the United States and Belgium and in group exhibitions in China, France, Germany, Monaco, and Norway. Among the exhibiting museums are: Brooklyn Museum of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Photography and Field Museum, Overbeck-Gesellschaft (Lübeck, Germany), and Cape Cod Museum of Art.
Their work can be found in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Boston Public Library, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Fogg Museum of Art, National Portrait Gallery, and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.