With this, the 3rd exhibition at Emerson Dorsch, conceptual artist Magnús Sigurðarson presents 6 large clay paintings of parrots, a video performance, and an installation. The opening reception will be September 22nd, 6-9pm at Emerson Dorsch, which is located at 5900 NW 2nd Ave, Miami, FL.
Magnús arrived at his emblem honestly. He often proclaims that his home country Iceland is the northern-most Caribbean island. He is not joking here (though there often is a joke, so pay attention): Iceland, along with the Caribbean Islands St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas, were all once colonies of The Kingdom of Denmark. Not only did these islands have a distant sovereign in common, the Gulf Stream also connects them. The current draws warm water northward to the southern end of Iceland, making the southern end noticeably warmer.
The parrot makes its home in Miami (Magnús’s home now), Iceland (his homeland) and the Caribbean (let’s acknowledge that Miami feels like the northern Caribbean not the Southern United States). Magnús writes that:“One does not always understand the complexity of one's environment nor society in which one exists. For example, the iconic parrot, symbol of Florida sun and fun, is an immigrant, all native species of parrot were wiped out in the 1900's and the species that we now find in and associate with Miami and South Florida were all imported one way or another. Immigrants are the new mascot of Miami, the parrot searching for a home, the Icelander seeking melancholy, all species and immigrants at one point have to redefine their identity based on their current reality. While they will never be native, they will through time be blended into the pallet of their new home as the lines of identity are blurred, smudged, and redefined. This exhibition will be the beginning of a post-melancholic identity through the power of myth and occasional mayhem.”
Magnús’s exhibition represents the latest project in which he distills and abstracts his feelings of displacement. Most previous works in this vein deflected seriousness or dreariness with humor. (Read a longer explanation about these works on his exhibition page at emersondorsch.com.) One emblazoned slogans of enthusiasm, “Fabulous!” “Terrific!” and “Super!” on blow flags. Another project, called Absenteeism at Dimensions Variable in 2011, was an installation of empty frames and stretcher bars. In 1001 Dreams of Occupation – What’s in it for me? at Emerson Dorsch in 2012, he pantomimed a protester at the train station in Opa Locka, a long faltered development with a Moorish theme in northwestern Miami. At first these projects read as a little kitschy. Themes of displacement resonate after interrogating the elements, their presentation and circumstance.
Sigurðarson’s most achingly poignant piece to date was a performance at the conclusion of Trading Places II at Museum of Contemporary Art in 2012. In Sleep My Baby Sleep/Soðou unga ástin min he sang a traditional Icelandic lullaby, accompanied by the choir of Our Lady of Perpetual Help of the Notre Dame Catholic Church, conducted by Boniface Laurent. With this performance Magnús represented Icelandic melancholy directly, with no humor to deflect its force.
The humor returned with Sigurðarson’s Corazón Vizcaya (2016), a short film commissioned for the Lost Spaces and Stories exhibition at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. It took the form of the pilot of a telenovela (that could never be made) that told the fictional and never-ending story of Vizcaya and her family. Here the Icelander takes on melodrama as a mode that is sad, true, but not at all the same as that elusive emotion. The humor here is to see our Icelandic friend cast in a milieu and mode that is so utterly different than his identity and project and with such abandon. The artist’s endless effort to find melancholy parallels the endlessness of telenovela stories. Sigurðarson’s melancholy project is defined by its failure, like a mathematical limit.
With Adios Melancholy, Sigurðarson once again accepts failure (for now). The pale marooned Icelander on South Beach is now at home in Miami’s Enchanted Forest. From his new seat of comfort, a content Sigurdarson reflects on his old angst. Its shadow could not survive in the sunlight. He has a little color in his cheeks now; he is fit; and he is in love. In a newly generous state of mind, he turns his attention to a flock of parrots, as they fly, squawking over the verdant canopy. He is inspired.
Magnús Sigurðarson exposes his own vulnerability in discrete acts, each of them acknowledging the pathos of his (and our) being. With a self-deprecating sense of humor, Sigurdarson plays out his heightened awareness of being out of place in his characters as the painted singing Roman statue, the marooned Icelander on South Beach, the English Beefeater man in the streets of London, or a Union soldier on an Indian battlefield. His works employ a range of media, from interventions in public space and sculptural installations to intimate photographic and video work.
He has exhibited at Reykjavik Art Museum, the Icelandic Consulate in Berlin, Dimensions Variable, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens and Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami. Sigurdarson studied art at Studio Cecil and Graves, Florence, Italy (1988), The Icelandic College of Arts and Crafts (1992) and Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA (1997). He is a Fulbright Scholarship Recipient with multiple grants and awards. His works are included in the collections of Debra and Dennis Scholl, Miami Beach; Alberto Chebebar, Miami Beach; Collezione La Gaia, Busca, Italy, MDD – Museum Dhondt – Dhaenes, Gent, Belgium; The Icelandic National Gallery, Reykjavik; The Reykjavik Municipal Museum, Reykjavik; The Related Group, Miami and The Private Collection of Emmanuel Javogue, Miami. Magnus Sigurdarson is represented by Emerson Dorsch, Miami. He currently lives and works in Miami, Florida.
Follow Magnús Sigurðarson on Artsy.
Photo credit: F. Casale, courtesy of Emerson Dorsch 2018.