The New Regime: Gardar Eide Einarsson

Over whiskey and beer at Manhattan’s Bowery Hotel, lofty ruminations on contemporary art crumble as the conversation turns to Gardar Eide Einarsson’s penis. “I know!” he says of Lars von Trier, the photograph in which he appears wearing nothing but a T-shirt alongside fellow artist Gareth James. “My little sister Googled me at her school library to show her friends my work and, well, she found more than she bargained for.” Nudity has become a theme throughout Einarsson’s career, as photographers and critics continue to equate the tattoos that cover much of his body with his general punk aesthetic. “It’s so crazy,” he says. “One time, a German newspaper asked me to take off my shirt in a museum, in front of one of my paintings. Can you imagine how lame that would have looked?”

It’s not that Einarsson minds taking off his clothes, but rather, that he wages war against the classification of his work as privileged, downtown angst art. Instead, he says his pieces — political amalgams of text and image, often juxtaposed together with a wink — create a “visual language of repression, but with a pinch of paranoia.” Einarsson’s obsession with the men of American myth has proved polarizing. “People criticize my work, saying that it’s parasitic on the glamour of these tragic figures,” says the New York-based Norwegian, referring to recent projects like his short film about Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassin, Jack Ruby, and his critical re-imagining of Jackson Pollock’s machismo paint splatters. “But my stuff is about failed glamour and failed ambition. It’s hard to come to this country as an outsider and not see the American myth as somehow tragic.”

Photo: Isa Wipfli

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