A prolific artist, Kirkeby used a range of different media. He was a member of the Fluxus group and was influenced by Pop art in the 1960s. Later he was influenced by Tachism and Abstract Expressionism. The vigorous brushwork and chromatic beauty of his, mostly untitled, paintings and the sensuous modelling of his rough black bronzes have earned him the title ‘lyric expressionist'. The paintings, which tend towards the abstract, bear veiled iconographic reference, largely to the Danish landscape and the female figure.
In contrast to the poetic and dramatic character of his paintings and black bronzes Kirkeby's brick sculptures display an unusual clarity. They make strong reference to traditional Danish housing and are inspired by Mayan architecture, as in the house-like, symmetrical form (1973) at Ikast, Denmark. In 1981 Kirkeby completed a group of such sculptures for the County Council building in Ålborg. His concern with experiment and conceptual art led him to execute a series of works in chalk on blackboard, and he regularly published poetry, essays and travel books, as well as making television and full-length documentary films. He also produced many artist's books, such as the ‘picture novel' Landskaberne (‘Landscapes'; Copenhagen, 1969).
Per Kirkeby: Übermalungen, 1964–84 (exh. cat., Munich, Kstraum, 1984)
Per Kirkeby: Skulpturen und Bilder (exh. cat., Zurich, Gal. Knoedler, 1985)
Per Kirkeby: Retrospektive (exh. cat., Cologne, Mus. Ludwig, 1987)
Per Kirkeby: Pinturas, esculturas, grabados y escritos (exh. cat., Valencia, IVAM Cent. Julio Gonzalez, 1989–90)
‘Per Kirkeby', Louisiana Revue, xxx/3 (1990) [whole issue]
JENS PETER MUNK
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