From February 2013, the Norwegian artist Pushwagner was exhibiting his multifaceted work in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. The exhibition has previously been shown at MK Gallery in Great Britain and Haugar Vestfold Art Museum in Oslo. Although the artist is extremely well known in Norway, this was Pushwanger’s first solo exhibition outside Norway.
His works clearly demonstrate his critical view of society and politics. The artist is famous for his multifaceted satirical commentary on power and greed in twentieth century society. Three series of works by Pushwagner formed the heart of the exhibition: the visual novel ‘Soft City’, the series of prints entitled ‘A Day in the Life of Family Man’ and the ‘Apocalypse Frieze’ series.
‘Soft City’ (1969-1976) is a visual novel consisting of 154 pages in which the daily life of a modern city is illustrated in highly detailed pen drawings. This novel is considered by many as his most important work. Soft City takes the viewer on a trip through the day in the life of a family. In a sober, simplistic way, Pushwagner creates a mechanical world. The theme of this novel is reminiscent of books such as 1984 by George Orwell and Lanark by Alasdair Gray, and the film Metropolis by Fritz Lang. Pushwanger uses a combination of art history, science fiction and contemporary culture to create a complex, foreboding alternative universe, where there is no room for individuals or latecomers.
A Day in the Life of Family Man
‘A Day in the Life of Family Man’ is a series of prints from the ‘eighties, in which repetition, routine and infinity are illustrated in 34 almost identical drawings in pink, black and grey. These prints show scenes from daily family life, each with a clear Pushwagner make-over. Everywhere there are television screens where daily life is monitored. A man and woman are followed during their daily activities such as working and shopping.
The third series, ‘Apocalypse Frieze’, contains seven large-format works. The best known work from the series is ‘Jobkill’ from 1990 and is considered one of the most detailed art works in the world. In an art historical sense, the work’s considerable detail is reminiscent of Pieter Bruegel’s ‘The Triumph of Death’ dating from 1562, the series of etchings by Goya entitled ‘The Disasters of war’ from the early 19th century or - more recently - the installation ‘Fucking Hell’ by the Chapman brothers dating from 2009. In common with these works, Jobkill is a theatre of war. A warship sails on a sea of skeletons and corpses, everywhere there are gun turrets and machine guns, and jets and parachutists fly through the air.
Goya's series of etchings ‘Los Desastres de la Guerra’ (Disasters of War), which were an inspiration for Pushwagner's 'Jobkill', were on display in the museum during Pushwagner's exhibition. It was a rare opportunity in the Netherlands to see the entire series of eighty prints by the Spanish artist Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (1746 - 1828). Read more information about this exhibition in the Print Room here.
Pushwanger trained at the National Academy of Fine Art in Oslo and at the Cité Internationale des Arts Paris. In 2008 he participated in the Biennial of Berlin, which proved his major breakthrough. The artist describes himself as a ‘spiritual student’ of the Norwegian author Axel Jensen, who he met in 1968. He illustrated Jensen’s book “Og resten står skrivd i stjernene/And the Rest is Writ(ten) in the Stars” in 1995. The name Hariton Pushwagner is a pseudonym of Terje Brofos; he gave himself this nickname in 1970 as a satirical reference to Hare Krishna and other Eastern philosophers, and to shopping carts (“push wagons”).
Documentary about Pushwagner
The artist was followed for three years by the Norwegian directors Even Benestad and August B. Hanssen. Because of Pushwagner’s sometimes destructive tendencies, they describe him as “the artist who is about to lose everything”. The film about his life has been selected for various film festivals throughout the world, such as Nordox - Nordic Documentary Film Festival in China and Brisbane International Film Festival in Australia.
Pushwagner in the media
The travelling Pushwagner exhibition has been discussed in and enthusiastically praised by the press. You will find several reviews and articles here:
- BBC News about the opening of the exhibition
- Art / Books publishing, the publisher of the monograph issued for this exhibition
- The Norwegian government has also paid attention to this travelling exhibition on its website
- The Guardian nominated Pushwagner as ‘artist of the week’
- Review of the exhibition on the Norwegian news site NRK
With kind support to
The exhibition has partly been made possible thanks to Fritt Ord (Foundation for Freedom of Expression, Norway), Norsk Kulturråd (Norwegian Council for Culture) and OCA (Office for Contemporary Art Norway) and the Norwegian Embassy.