The Man, 2010

Still: Courtesy the artist | Luhring Augustine, New York | Galleri i8, Reykjavik

Single-channel video installation, color, sound
49 min

Ragnar Kjartansson's The Man faithfully captures a full performance of the final repertoire of the ninety-seven-year-old Mississippi blues musician Pinetop Perkins. Perkin's upright piano is placed outside in the sunshine in the midst of a vast expanse of grassland; in the distance, an old barn and a few trees are visible. The musician sits down at the piano, places his cane on his right side, and begins his act, a repertoire of songs and well-rehearsed puns and remarks that he has perfected over decades. Occasionally he takes off his hat and dries the sweat, and oblivious to the glaring heat, he delivers his "show" as if on stage. Smoking throughout the performance, mumbling and complaining about the badly tuned piano, he cracks jokes and slips in and out of familiar songs and jingles. Finally Perkins stands up and exits the frame.
Paraphrasing the composition of Andrew Wyeth's slightly melancholic and introspective painting Christina's World (1948) the video amalgamates the most contrary traditions. Not only the ancient blues legend himself but also his performance, marked by repetition, truncations, and miniature quotations, evoke the haziness of the contemporary caught in the moment of its transcendence into history and obsolescence, on the one hand, and nostalgia and melancholy for this soon to be lost presence on the other.
The encounter of the Icelandic incarnation of an old blues soul and one of the musical genre's oldest protagonists turns into a materialization of a permanent state of transience and impermanence, the most adept space for melancholy, beauty, and longing.


Solo Exhibition: Ragnar Kjartansson: Emotional Landscapes
Venue: Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza
Curators: Soledad Gutiérrez
February 22, 2022 - June 26, 2022

*1976 in Reykjavík, Iceland | Living and working in Reykjavík, Iceland
Excerpt: Luhring Augustine, New York