Leonardo Da Vinci, Francis Bacon, Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, Willem De Kooning, Jackson Pollock: what do all these artists have in common? They have produced works that are among the most expensive of all time, they are firmly anchored in the art historical canon, they have become role models for countless artists since - and they were men. Their signatures now appear on the surface of a white wall, and another signature has been smuggled in between them: that of Jonathan Kraus. He painted the picture "Signature Move", in which this wall surface appears, reminiscent of a sponsor wall familiar at major media events, in front of which celebrities usually present themselves to reporters and photographers. But Jonathan Kraus has not only crept onto the sponsor wall with his own signature, he has also painted a picture of himself posing in the painting. In it, he can be seen to be visibly outraged in front of the wall: like an soliloquy, the portrait seems to want to challenge its artist, the figure asks its creator why he placed him in front of this wall.
Indeed, the figure seems detached, as if it had been removed from its actual habitat and now placed like a game piece on the chessboard-like floor in front of the sponsor's wall. He is visibly uncomfortable in the new old society, perhaps because the VWs, Googles, Deutsche Banks, Bayers among the artists don’t mean much more to society than being popular signatures that are good for advertising? Perhaps because the aforementioned are problematised as conceited men in the light of current feminist discourses? The fact that the artist Jonathan Kraus has added his signature as an expression of his admiration for that old world, while at the same time allowing his avatar-like portrait to oppose it as a passionate representative of the present, may be read as a sign of his ambivalent attitude towards current debates; at the same time, it is a clever and analytical examination of his own role as a young male artist and his tradition, which is being questioned ever more frequently and loudly. The indignant expression of his portrait reflects the loss of authority of that male artist and with it all that he stood for throughout modernism: the autonomy of art, the genius of the creator, the originality of the work - indicated by the signature.
This is now contrasted with the "Signature Move", and from the ground up, the painting becomes a puzzle: the chessboard becomes a disco floor that could start to glow like in Saturday Night Fever, the indignant posture becomes a dance gesture that recalls the silhouettes of early iPod advertisements, not least because of the headphones. As in many of his works, Kraus succeeds here, with the help of iconography, in giving the content a surprising twist, subtly linking new points of view to old ones, or knowing how to connect divergent areas with each other.
New world meets old world, pop meets high culture, feminism meets patriarchy: the uncertainties and insecurities, inner and outer conflicts of such a time of upheaval are the theme of Jonathan Kraus' works. "This Artist Rewrites Art History" (2019) is the name of another work that takes the metaphor for artistic originality literally: The artist can be seen repeatedly writing the line "art history" - a highlight by Kraus, who thus aptly takes past claims of artistic production to absurdity: Hasn't the evocation of originality and novelty itself long since become mere repetition?