From November 1998 to January 1999, Viggo Mortensen exhibited a selection of his more recent work at the gallery Track 16. The title he gave the show was Recent Forgeries, and naturally enough the catalogue for the show bore the same name. First published in 1999 when the show ran, through Smart Art Press, Recent Forgeries has now entered its seventh printing and is released through Perceval Press
So we need to backtrack in time nine years, if not more, to when these works were created. Something to be keep in mind is that these works were in a gallery before Viggo Mortensen became the name he is today. Prior to Lord Of The Rings, Hidalgo, and History of Violence, the movies that have thrust him into the limelight, he was already an established artist in his own right, not because he was a movie star or a celebrity.
Although anybody who has spent any time reading his poetry or observing his visual art would quickly recognize his talent, I'm sure there have been many a disparaging comment made about a celebrity getting recognition without deserving it. In fact, my voice was one of those making cynical comments like that before actually seeing or reading anything Mr. Mortensen had created.
Even a casual flipping through of the pages of Recent Forgeries will quickly dispel any impression of this being the work of a dilettante or someone out for easy ego strokes. These are all difficult and challenging works of art from both the artist's and viewer's perspective.
In some instances the mundane quality of the subject matter — shots from a child's birthday party, a swimming pool, a mother and child on a front porch — might individually provoke a reaction of "so what? I can do that." But taken in context with the other pictures, a theme, or perhaps the modus operandi of the guy behind the camera, would be more appropriate a way to apply our focus .
By getting beyond our initial reactions to the focal points — the painter on the ladder, the surfboard in the pick-up truck, a man holding a hose which sprays a glorious arch of water across the frame, or any number of other simple moments in time compositions — something changes. Questions about the individuals in the works might all of sudden come to mind – how did that man with those tattoos on that shoulder come to be outside in the blazing sun painting a seemingly endless wall?