Port renversé

Johannes Kahrs

13.02.2024 | 18.02.2024
Pièce Unique

The starting point for Port renversé, Johannes Kahrs’ first presentation at MASSIMODECARLO Pièce Unique, was the space itself. Intrigued by the gallery’s format - a single room, open to the street with its vast clear window, Kahrs chose to embrace the space’s extreme visibility, and simultaneous discretion, to present works that directly address the notions of seeing and being seen.

“I chose paintings that deal with aspects of either looking at something, or looking and passing by, or the notion of exhibiting oneself and looking at something.”


Kahrs’ practice is deeply anchored in the alternation, appropriation and distortion of pre-existing images. Often taken from magazines, or referencing other artists, Kahrs’ compositions are subtle, intentionally uneasy recalibrations of the scenes that he depicts, with figures often cut to remain just bodies, against abstract, softly coloured backdrops. By reframing his images counterintuitively to exclude eyes, hands, or any element that would allow clear identification, Kahrs invites the viewer to consider all the paradoxes, mystery and possibilities beyond the frame. What lies beyond, behind the canvas becomes almost as salient as the elements that he chooses to include in his paintings.

Building on the idea that his artworks might simply be overlooked by most people walking past the gallery’s window, Kahrs chose to present a work that exemplifies indifference. The splattered crimson body lying in the bottom of his abstract colour plane is hard to identify. Surrounded by legs and feet walking in different directions, upon closer inspection, nothing is clear in what the painting really shows. What are we looking at? Is it a crime scene, an accident? Just like the body, still, unidentified, the canvas lies in the middle of the gallery, surrounded by the hurried, moving shapes of people walking past it.

Another perfect case in point of Kahrs’ ability to edit out essential information from his images is his uncanny portrait of a cowboy with a breast. Inspired by Mike Kelley, the figure’s awkward confrontation with a somewhat disproportionate breast, detached from a body and just protruding from the canvas’s right-hand side, the picture is as paradoxical as it is surreal, or blatantly nightmarish.

The exhibition of these artworks, first individually, then together within the gallery space, speaks to Kahrs’ awareness of the body’s place in space, and of intentional, or unintentional exposure. Just like the gallery’s discreet presence forces his artworks to be seen by all those that pay attention, his compositions, that play with colour and context, present bodies that did not require anyone’s attention, but that once they grab it, reveal themselves as layered, meaningful manipulations of what we expect to see in a painting.

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Johannes Kahrs

Johannes Kahrs was born in Bremen, Germany, in 1965. He lives and works in Berlin.

Perception’s analysis and images’ manipulation are at the core of Johannes Kahrs’ reflection. The subjects of the German author’s artworks present themselves in all their human indecipherability, shaken by pressures and malaise: the monstrous yet familiar realis of Kahrs’ paintings provokes entangled empathy and reveals the hidden and violent side of humanity.Starting from images collected from magazines, the internet, newspapers, advertisements, amateur and feature films, but also from photographs taken by himself, Johannes Kahrs releases the image from its original context, depicting fragmented and isolated scenes and escaping a coherent narrative. By cutting the image, enlarging its details and disconnecting it from its original embedded context, the artist emphasizes the symbolic meaning of the scene to reveal its deeper and mysterious contents.With his work, Johannes Kahrs challenges our beliefs and our ability to observe what surrounds us. Through his pictorial practice, the artist fights the hectic and superficial representation of human body in times of mass communication and outof-control sharing. Johannes Kahrs questions reality by revealing its physicality, perturbation and its violent sensuality.

Work by the artist is held in major museum collections such as: Centre Pompidou, Paris; MOCA, Los Angeles; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas; Museu Serralves, Porto; SFMoMA, San Francisco; UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; MoMA, New York and S.M.A.K., Ghent.