Often when a company takes a turn for the worst, its logo goes along for the ride. Symbols of prosperity and power become artifacts of a flawed venture -- symbols of failure. Superflex's collection "Bankrupt Banks" explores the international financial crisis through the images designed to convey resilience and prestige. Instead, these logos will be remembered as representing banks that went under during rough times. The banners depict the logos in a mass-produced style, though they are all hand-painted.
The Danish collective Superflex, consisting of Jakob Fenger, Rasmus Nielsen and Bjornstjerne Christiansen, have investigated financial hubris before in a work titled, "Power Toilet/JP Morgan Chase" (2011). The installation featured replicas of gleaming toilets, pristine white sinks and black marble floors from the New York offices of JPMorgan Chase, placed incongruously in a Greek diner. We decided to ask Superflex member Bjornstjerne Christiansen a few questions about his work and his logo project via e-mail. Scroll down to for a slideshow of images.
HP: In an interview with GalleristNY, you say "These symbols were made to establish comfort, trust, and so on but they’re rather absurd images." How so?
BC: The logos were produced by the banks to establish comfort, trust etc. yet they are either totally abstract or use strange references such as a eagle, a bull, a hat, a lamp, a palm tree with a sunset, waves, Vikings, etc.
HP: Looking at all the logos you dealt with, did you see any recurring symbols or motifs in these images of financial prosperity?
BC: There are few that really speak to you about prosperity, but those who do are very direct such as Fanny Mae (a house) or Bank United FSB (holiday - palm trees), many other use reference to Power, such as Merrill Lynch (a big bull), Roskilde Bank (the a Viking ship), [and] Colonial Bank (the eagle).
HP: How does constraint generally affect creativity and freedom?
BC: Restraints are a fantastic motivator for creativity, they allow you to focus on content rather than battling with all options available. They can also refer to a conflict or battle with an opponent or context you are forced to deal with by choice or by order.
HP: Who is one artist or what is work of art that is influencing you right now?
BC: We are influenced by many artist and thinkers all the time, it depends on the actual work we are developing, with the Bankrupt Banks series we got quite interested in the term "Capitalist Realism" -- presented by Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, Wolf Vostell in the late sixties.
"Bankrupt Banks" will show at Peter Blum Gallery until April 21.
Check out the logos below and let us know what you think in the comments section: