Gudmundur Gudmundsson -who later adopted the pseudonym Erró was born in 1932 in Ólafsvik on the northwestern coast of Iceland. Admitted to the Reykjavik School of Fine Arts in September 1949, he obtained a Proffessor of Art diploma in the Spring of 1951. In 1952, he went to Norway, where he studied engraving, fresco work, and painting at the academy in Oslo. His first individual show took place in 1955 in Florence at the Santa Trinità Gallery.
In 1958, he settled in Paris, where his work became known as part of the Narrative Figuration movement.
In the course of his travels around the world, Erró has collected images (advertisements, news photos, comics, posters, political brochures) that are his source of inspiration. He chooses them, assembles them, and piles them to his liking upon canvasses to form paintings that are to be read as much as they are to be seen. This he does always with feelings of anguish and violence.
Painting is a site of experimentation wherein he can make the old out of the new. It is a private form of utopia, the pleasure of being contradictory, the happiness of being alone against the world, the joy of being provocative. He discloses and denounces our society’s aberrations: managed consumption, commercialized eroticism, revolutions, the Americanization of existence…In some of his artistic compositions, he cleverly inserts characters from paintings by Ingres, Delacroix, Léger, or Picasso who find themselves sharing the same space with movie stars, statesmen, or comic-book heroes. Often he works in series, such as his Chinese, political, and erotic cycles.
He has exhibited in almost all continents. His works are in major museum collections of contemporary art from Paris to New York. He exhibited with Duchamp, Max Ernst, Botero, Man Ray, Giacometti, Breton, Masson, Tinguely, Joan Miro, Fromanger, Calder, Christo, Oldenburg, Velickovic, Dado. About his art has made several films and published fifteen monographs. In June 2001, the Reykjavik City Museum has presented to the public Ero’s major retrospective from the collection with more than 3000 works. A great many shows have been devoted to his work in France as well as abroad. Several retrospectives have been dedicated to his work, too: in 1985, for example, at the city of Paris's Museum of Modern Art and in 1999 at the French National Gallery in the Jeu de Paume. In 2005, the Palma de Majorca Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art along with the Manheimer Kunstverein organized a retrospective show (1958-2004). Then in 2006 to the Valencia Institute of Modern Art (IVAM) and Alcalá 31 in Madrid. He has received numerous awards and prizes among which are the most important ones he got from the state of Iceland and France.
I have always believed that islanders feel a greater and stronger need than other people to set out into the world, to sail off into the unknown, to ignore the risks and create with courage, tenacious work and, above all, talent their own continents, their own artistic utopia. One of such untiring planetary travellers is GUDMUNDUR GUDMUNDSSON nicknamed ERRO (which means “it is quiet now” in Icelandic), a renowned graphic artist with a fascinating biography, born in Iceland and resident of different parts of our globe, with Paris standing out among them.
The curiosity prompted this modern Viking to engage from an early age in the study of highly diverse forms of graphic expression at a number of art academies across Europe (drawing – Reykjavik; print, fresco painting, restoration – Oslo; mosaic – Ravenna; painting – Florence etc.). As he grew as an artist, Erro went through several stages, tried his hand at different forms of graphic expression (drawings, collages, oil paintings, water colours, installations, happenings, films, murals, prints) and selected the graphic idiom close to pop-art and post-modernist trends as the one enabling him to express best and quickest his ideas and emotions, his temperament, all those mordant, witty, ironic, committed, graphically interesting and ingenious comments about the absurdity of the everyday, the characteristics of his time, threats and abuses across the planet we live on. His style - a mixture of pictorial languages, a combination of artistic signs based on comics is highly specific, enriched through the procedure and choice of subjects (violence, consumerism, sex, arms, wars, pastiches of great artists) has brought him global renown and made him a well-nigh unavoidable actor on the European figurative artistic stage. This is evidenced, in addition to a vast number of solo and collective exhibitions, by numerous orders for public spaces in different countries, performed in different graphic techniques.
The extraordinary vitality, agility and enormous work invested have made Erro a highly prolific artist. His works are in museums and collections the world over. In the beginning of this millennium a museum was inaugurated in Reykjavik with a display of 200 Erro’s pieces but the collection is already 3000 works strong. He has participated in major artistic reviews, socialised and communicated with the greatest artists of the 20th century. Some of them influenced him such as, for instance, Roberto Mata and Falstrom, and others see in him kinship with Lichtenstein, Warhol or Rosenquist. What distinguishes him, however, from the American pop-art is his ability to create modern historical painting. He is its rare representative mixing personalities from other epochs and cartoon heroes with leaders and historical icons who have marked the social and political developments in the present-day world. With his provocative cycles, his series of works with a specific kaleidoscope of characters, Erro, in fact, moves the pop-art stage towards the blazing, eruptive pop-baroque as this style is usually called. Recognisable for his bright colours, daring compositions, occasionally huge formats, post-modernist quotes and works of homage (Disney, Picasso, Dali, Leger, Cosmonauts), known for his sense of humour, commitment, anarchism, specific mythology, a synthesis of heaven and infernal visions, this outstanding artist does not hesitate to underline that painting is a site of experimentation wherein he can make the old out of the new. It is a private form of utopia, the pleasure of being contradictory, the happiness of being alone against the world, the joy of being provocative, a test of conscience, a dark story, studded with dialogues and symbols, the overcoming of silence and shock, the study of existence. His is a world of disquieting chaos, a world of monsters, underdressed starlets, children’s games, a world of fiction and science fiction, a world of the grotesque peopled with politicians, reptiles, insects, a world of caricatures of all kinds, but also a world of ideas one believes in. The world of the ineffable, opposed to the order of the customary in the language of painting and every other language, the world of unusual, daring messages and profound humanism.
For his exhibition in the CHAOS Gallery Erro has selected works on paper from several different series: water colours entitled Devils and Dust; of them, particularly poignant are Lehman Brothers and The Political Alphabet. Then there are silk-screens from the series called Femmes fatales as lead characters in a TV series, women-fighters and revolutionaries, bearing more arms than clothes, beautiful and cruel women, women – objects of male lust, women- world rulers; of them, we single out Miss America and Guernica. They are followed by a series of a small retrospective of collages which are the starting point, the essence in this artist’s creative process because they are treated equally as original works and as models for other, larger paintings. His approach to work is fascinating and precise as the public will have the opportunity to see in a film accompanying the exhibition. Finally, Erro added to his presentation in Belgrade three works from the cycle Picasso in Profile which is an outstanding example of the genre. In point of fact, the entire exhibition is a small yet rounded-off cross section of his opus, a possible small and select collection. Need one point out that the drawing is the crucial and predominant element in the whole Erro’s opus? We believe that this is more than obvious and that his drawings are something that has not been seen before. Drawings as an iron structure of scenes, the armature of a painting. With his eminently narrative figuration, which corresponds so well with modern plastic tendencies and bypasses fashionable trends, this artist of tremendous abilities has taken a special place in the history of modern art, a place where the new power of painting is not ignored and where the tested, indisputable pictorial values are upheld..
Erro has shown great generosity towards our city and our country. He has presented all the works displayed here to the Museum of Modern Art in Belgrade (where he has already exhibited in the past) and some of his works to the CHAOS Art Gallery. It is a great honour to welcome him in our gallery and we wish to express our most profound gratitude for this remarkable exhibition of works on paper and the wonderful gift.