Ragnar Kjartansson is 40, lives in Iceland and is closing his three month long solo exhibit at the Hirshhorn Museum today. Ragnar is a performance artist and brings together live endurance theater, large-scale projection, popular music, photography, painting, and drawing in his first major U.S. museum retrospective. Kjartansson draws upon his own history to create work that combines theater with experiments in repetition and endurance. Deeply personal themes such as birth, death, and family meld with satirical commentary on politics and Western culture.

img_7394“What is that sound Mommy?” Oliver inquired. I, too, was wondering the same thing. Walking in the interior of the cylindrical building the sound easily carried and reverberated against the windows and walls. Was it a sound of construction, an alarm alerting us that a door had been left ajar? We continued to walk through the museum not realizing we were making our way closer to the source. Just as Oliver finished saying “Why won’t it stop?” we turned the corner and saw a wall of gold tinsel. Beyond the tinsel was a woman dressed in gold. Encouraged by the security guard we parted the tinsel to enter her room. Upon a pedestal stage stood a beautiful woman wearing a gold sequin evening gown and a somber expression as she repeatedly played a solitary E-minor chord on an electric guitar. The repetitive, monotonous sound that moments earlier had started to annoy was suddenly paired with gold and glamour and melancholy.

img_7402“E-minor is a universal chord of melancholy, one particularly suited to expressions of wistfulness and brooding lovesickness. Kjartansson carries the key of E-minor to immersive hyperbole with Woman in E. Employing kitsch Woman in E activates associations with traditional figurative sculpture and objectified notions of femininity.” img_7410 img_7426 img_7430 img_7438 img_7442 img_7449img_7392