On June 28, Pushwagner: Soft City opened at MK Gallery. This is the first solo exhibition outside Norway by the visionary artist Hariton Pushwagner (born Oslo, 1940). Since the recent discovery of his work, Pushwagner has become a celebrity in his home nation, appearing regularly in newspaper headlines and television talk shows, renowned for his homelessness and hedonistic lifestyle, and compared to a modern day Edvard Munch. The exhibition runs until 2 September.
Pushwagner’s defining creation is the graphic novel ‘Soft City’, an epic satire of capitalism and life in the modern metropolis, produced intermittently in Oslo and London between 1969 and 1976. His work also takes the form of intricate and obsessively detailed paintings, presenting a personal mythology of a world under perpetual siege from pollution, totalitarianism and mass destruction.
At MK Gallery a tightly focussed presentation of Pushwagner’s early work will be shown in three distinct groupings; Soft City, Family of Man and Apocalypse Frieze. In addition, Pushwagner’s design for an enormous Pop Art inspired mouth will be realised in the form of a mural surrounding MK Gallery’s main entrance. Visitors will have to step onto its projecting tongue and enter the cavernous mouth to reach the exhibition beyond.
The 154-page graphic novel Soft City provides an account of mechanical, daily life in a dehumanized, dystopian modern city. Completed in 1976, the humdrum lives of Pushwagner’s characters allude to George Gurdjieff’s descriptions of people in a state of ‘waking sleep’. The menacing controller in charge of life in Soft City and the pills the family swallows on a daily basis evoke Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ (1932).
Following its presentation in Milton Keynes, the exhibition will tour to Haugar Vestfold Kunstmuseum, Norway, and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, in the Netherlands.
The Pushwagner exhibition will be complemented at MK Gallery by a substantial Norwegian Season of video, music and performance events with around fifty Norwegian artists and curators.
Pushwagner: Soft City
June 28 – September 2
900 Midsummer Boulevard
Central Milton Keynes MK9 3QA
Open Tuesday–Friday 12–8pm
Admission is free