Spanning continents and three decades, Josef Strau’s meandering practice explores representation and subjectivity in writing and artmaking. Citing a lifelong admiration for culture of the Americas, the Vienna-born artist relocated to New York in 2008, where he lives and works today. Dubbed an artist who writes and a writer who makes art, Strau views the written word and art object as two inextricably linked tools. Commonly, writing serves a reflective understanding of the past whereas artmaking forges comprehension of the present moment. Strau muddles these popular notions through stream-of-consciousness style writings and highly symbolic, historically-informed artmaking.
Inspired by a trip to Mexico and an interest in Byzantine iconography, Strau made the paintings below from tin and soldering wire. Within deliberate erosions and incisions on the tin surfaces, Strau’s palette of blues, greens, and oranges is reminiscent of one of his childhood heroes, the Vienna-born post-Secessionist painter Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928 – 2000). Strau pairs these tin-and-wire works with printed texts: automatic writing, infused with Strau’s memories and autobiography, organized visually into concrete forms. In the exhibition space—where visual art and the written word overlap, physically and conceptually—Strau produces a narrative environment for the interplay of theory, fiction, and personal history.
Tears and New Tears
"The focus of the collection was one way to ask when and why once did it come to pass long ago so long ago that I would become an artist, and how did this original moment mingle with the original moment of developing other more serious personal bad misdemeanors, although in fact coming from an environment where such aesthetic values did not play any role, instead everything was perfect to develop a good person whose life duration is defined by good events. The necessary question for analyzing the simultaneous temporal appearance of the two trajectories might be to ask if something or someone “touched” me long ago and unknowingly to me a touch that produced later on such struggles that often come with being an artist and a not good guy. While meditating or self analyzing memories of young age, I became aware that such a “touch” could be called a touch that led to a possession or to a kind of modern bedevilment even." – Josef Strau