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Karel Funk

October 11 to November 17, 2018

Karel Funk’s paintings of figures in hooded jackets are paradoxical in that they are incredibly detailed—with every fold and facet of fabric rendered with meticulous precision—while at the same time presenting minimal context, or at least obscuring the type of overt information we would normally expect from a portrait. Though we easily recognize a figure, we are left to gaze at the intricate creases of nylon, Gore-Tex, and other contemporary jacket fabrics that become the forefront of the paintings.

Different styles and techniques of painting drapery have become markers throughout art history, and the connection to renaissance painting in Funk’s work is particularly evident. The relationship between what we know of art history and Funk’s hyper-real rendering of engineered, modern-day fabric is particularly effective, hinting at a deeper connection between the two. In these works, Funk also employs the idea of a rückenfigur (a figure seen from behind), another historical device commonly used to create an immediate connection between the viewer and the subject; the viewer, facing the same direction as the subject, naturally identifies with the view before them, or can imagine emotional state of the subject. In Funk’s works, the figures are placed on a blank white background, offering no further context to their surroundings or emotional state. The effect is perplexing and deepens the psychological impact of the works, giving them— despite their contemporary attire—a timeless, limitless quality.

Karel Funk studied at the University of Manitoba (BFA, 1997) and Columbia University (MFA, 2003). A mid-career survey of Karel Funk’s work was recently shown at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (2017), as well he has had exhibitions at the Rochester Art Center, the Muéee d’Art Contemporain de Montreal, Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Plug in Institute of Contemporary Art, Fondation Antoine de Galbert, Paris, 303 Gallery, among others. His works are collected by numerous institutions including the National Gallery of Canada, the Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Karel Funk
Untitled #92
Acrylic on panel
22 x 24 inches