Installation view of Anna Kunz: With Rays (October 20-November 20, 2021) at Alexander Berggruen, NY. Photo: Dario Lasagni

Installation view of Anna Kunz: With Rays (October 20-November 20, 2021) at Alexander Berggruen, NY. Photo: Dario Lasagni

Anna Kunz

In Anna Kunz’s paintings, tessellating, seeping bodies of color mingle and levitate, resulting in lifted, sometimes dissonant, harmonies, often landing in surprising resolutions. These relationships and reactions occur simultaneously, like an entire improvisational jazz arrangement played as the receiver encounters each pitch and chord of color. Unexpected notes of form provide a site of, in the artist’s words, “shared sensory experiences and the temporary disruption of social and material boundaries.”

Kunz received an MFA from Northwestern University, Evanston, IL and a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL. Kunz participated as an artist-in-residence in the Marie Walsh Sharpe Studio Program, Brooklyn, NY; and The Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Skowhegan, ME, among others. She is a 2024 Monira Foundations Artist in Residence at Mana Contemporary, New Jersey. The artist’s work has been exhibited at: Alexander Berggruen, New York, NY; Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, CA; McCormick Gallery, Chicago, IL; The Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, IL; Providence College Galleries, Providence, RI; TSA Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, Brooklyn, NY, and Madrid, Spain; and WhiteBox, New York, NY. Her work is included in the public collections of The Philadelphia Museum, Philadelphia, PA; The Block Museum, Chicago, IL; and Columbia University Teachers College, New York, NY; among others. Kunz has been honored with nominations from: Anonymous Was a Woman, 3Arts Foundation, Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, Emerging Artist award from the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Artadia finalist, Chicago, the Rema Hort-Mann Foundation’s Individual Artists Grant, and The Joan Mitchell Foundation. As a current artist in residence with the Monira Foundation at Mana Contemporary, Kunz lives and works in New York, NY and Chicago, IL.

Anna Kunz in the studio

Anna Kunz in the studio, Chicago, IL. Photo: Yangze Wang

Installation view of Anna Kunz: With Rays (October 20-November 20, 2021) at Alexander Berggruen, NY. Photo: Dario Lasagni

October 20-November 20, 2021

Shapes (April 21-May 27, 2021) at Alexander Berggruen, New York

April 21-May 27, 2021

Once in a while you can get shown the light. Anna Kunz’s Paintings to the Full Flower Moon, on view at Alexander Berggruen through June 26th, offers up eleven new acrylics-on-canvas that dance playfully along the lines between the earthly and celestial while retaining the craft-forward frankness of 2021’s With Rays. Kunz’s sun-drenched psychic geometries are winners on their own, with a leaning towards the spiritual that serves to bolster, not diffuse, their immense craftsmanship. Within the context of a city whose art world wrestles with the Dark Side and a worldwide “vibe-shift” permeating across media, this array of celestial openings in the Upper East Side feels practically miraculous.

What makes this exhibition so great is Kunz’s insistence on humanity: a devotion with the courage to grasp our hands and pull us along. Kunz’s work reinforces the all-too-primal instinct to conjure up new worlds, not to distract us from our real one but to reaffirm our place as conscious beings. Make the trip and feel whole again. You’ve got two weeks.

Anna Kunz Bells, 2024 acrylic on canvas 78 x 72 in. (198.1 x 182.9 cm.)

For Chicago-based painter Anna Kunz, color never sits still. “In a composition, it moves and vibrates,” she says. “It’s alive and engaging—the opposite of static.”

The artist, whose aesthetic forebears include such people as Robert Irwin and Josef Albers, learned about color’s emotive powers early in life. Her father worked at the Art Institute of Chicago, where a young Kunz often waited for him while parked in front of Mark Rothko’s shimmering Untitled (Purple, White, and Red). “I observed how some people laughed, some got angry and others wept,” she recalls. “At 7 years old, I didn’t know color would be my lifelong pursuit—but I saw its potential to evoke a response.”

Today, Kunz—who divides her studio time between the Austin neighborhood and rural Michigan—is known for making viewers rethink the hues they take for granted with works on paper, canvas and textiles. “I enjoy fairly simple geometric forms because I am interested in pigments being perceived first,” she says, noting that color can affect everything from our heartbeats to our circulatory systems. She also explores how the perception of a particular hue depends on its surroundings. “Albers put it perfectly,” says Kunz, paraphrasing the 20th-century German American artist: “No one color is true—it is only determined by its relation to another color.”

In Kunz’s Austin studio, smaller works on paper are arrayed on countertops while larger canvases are spread on the floor. She moves between them via wooden planks in a kind of dance, painting to the sounds of experimental music. “My process is generative—I consider everything as part of a continuum,” says Kunz, who applies oils with a brush and acrylics with objects plucked from the domestic realm—spatulas, hairbrushes, bits of fabric, curlers—as well as found items, like leaves. “And I use a lot of water, because I like to dissolve hard-edged boundaries,” she adds. Kunz builds a rich depth of color by layering multiple thin films of pigment. She works with only a couple of different hues in a given day, assigning each one its own specific task: “For example, I might want my red to feel submissive in one piece and more dominant in another,” the artist explains. “I use colors like characters to satisfy different formal problems.”

Kunz, who has an upcoming solo show at New York’s Alexander Berggruen gallery in May and a group show at Detroit’s Library Street Collective in July, knows a painting is finished when it starts to take on a life of its own and feels unexpected—“like a surprise,” she describes. “When I sense light emitting from the color, I feel I’ve created a kind of optimism, and that’s when it’s time to leave it alone.”

Chicago Gallery News: You have talked about choreographing color – what does that mean to you?

Anna Kunz: I always feel like I understand dance, poetry and music better than painting. Choreography and dance use the body as material and turn ritual actions into a kind of poetry. It is very similar to the way I approach my process. Colors are stand-ins for relationships I observe in nature’s structures, or even the social sphere. I think of color as a body that generates forms and creates relationships and movement. My approach to choreography in painting means I pay attention to time and space on the surface to generate compositions. There is a word choreographers use–kinesphere–the arena or the space around the body. I translate this in painting to be the canvas or architectural space (in the case of my installations).

Installation view of Anna Kunz: With Rays (October 20-November 20, 2021) at Alexander Berggruen, NY. Photo: Dario Lasagni
Anna Kunz The Blue Magnitude, 2021 acrylic on canvas 78 x 72 in. (198.1 x 182.9 cm.)

Anna Kunz makes works on paper, paintings, sculptures, installations, and projects that seep out of the rectangle, often using painted and dyed fabrics that function like nets to capture and manipulate light and color. Her experiential works are often combined with objects or surfaces that add complexity and invite viewers to structure the space in time by passing through them.

Anna Kunz Diamond Pointed Light, 2021 acrylic on canvas 66 x 60 in. (167.6 x 152.4 cm.)

Anna Kunz: With Rays opens at Alexander Berggruen in New York this week, and ironically it pays homage to Josef Albers’s 1959 painting Homage to the Square: With Rays.

This week, a new group exhibition opens at Alexander Berggruen in New York. Called Shapes, the show explores geometric abstraction by artists both new and old (or dead): Marina Adams and Ellsworth Kelly; Ethan Cook and Imi Knoebel; Sam Moyer and Sol LeWitt. From top: Anna Kunz, Ethan Cook, and Paul Kremer.

Anna Kunz Demo 3, 2021 oil on linen 13 x 11 in. (33 x 27.9 cm.)

We are pleased to share with you a new essay, “Anna Kunz: With Rays,” written by Nell Andrew. Following the artist’s gesture and her inspirations from modernism, Andrew dives into the life Kunz imbues into her paintings via color.

This essay was published on the occasion of the exhibition Anna Kunz: With Rays (October 20-November 20, 2021) at Alexander Berggruen, NY.

Installation view of Anna Kunz: With Rays (October 20-November 20, 2021) at Alexander Berggruen, NY. Photo: Dario Lasagni
Shapes (April 21-May 27, 2021) at Alexander Berggruen, New York

On the occasion of our exhibition Shapes (April 21-May 27, 2021), we spoke with artists Rana Begum, Ethan Cook, Marie Hazard, Sheree Hovsepian, Paul Kremer, Anna Kunz, and Joel Shapiro about their work.

Anna Kunz: Paintings to the Full Flower Moon will be published on the occasion of the gallery’s eponymous exhibition, which ran from May 15-June 26, 2024. This catalogue features an essay by art critic, art historian, and poet Barry Schwabsky.

Pre-orders expected to be shipped in mid-July.

Anna Kunz Paintings to the Full Flower Moon exhibition catalogue
Shapes Exhibition Catalogue

This catalogue was published on the occasion of the gallery’s exhibition, Shapes (April 21–May 27, 2021). Included within are images and details of the artworks featured in the exhibition, by artists ranging from Mary Heilmann to Sol LeWitt, Robert Mangold, Paul Kremer, and Anna Kunz, to name a few.

This publication also features a new essay “Abstraction and Artifice” about the use of shapes within the modern and contemporary canon by art historian and writer, Tobias Berggruen.

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