Kaari Upson, Kunsthalle Basel

Kaari Upson. Photo: Amelia Burns

 

Kaari Upson (*1972) works in a wide array of media including sculpture, video, drawing and painting. She has created a singular artistic universe that melds autobiographical and collective traumas, fears and fantasies and often illuminates what might be called “Americanness” or the “American psyche.” The Los Angeles-based artist’s artful conjuring of abject imagery targets viewers’ psychological comfort zones, confronting them with visceral and affecting evocations of loss and instability.

 

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The prodigious, media-spanning scope of Upson’s conceptual practice is evident even in her earliest body of work: The Larry Project (2005–12)—a vast compendium of drawings, sculptures, videos and performances—takes as its point of departure a clandestine visit to a burned-down house in her parents’ neighborhood in San Bernardino, the artist’s hometown. Though Upson never met the house’s former occupant (whom she later called “Larry”) she reconstructs the life she imagines he led, fueled by sex, wealth and fantasy, from the home furnishings, photographs and diaries he abandoned. In addition to paintings, sculptures and drawings—including a full-size “Larry” doll who makes regular appearances—Upson’s project comprises videos and installations in which the artist herself appears wearing homemade silicone prostheses of breasts and genitalia in a nod to her muse’s real-life visits to the Playboy Mansion.

Subsequent bodies of work, which have likewise woven together reality and fantasy, include her celebrated sculptures made of silicone, latex, urethane and fiberglass, cast from mattresses, sofas and other domestic objects and painted in a range of vivid tones; as well as MMDP (My Mother Drinks Pepsi) (2014–17) inspired by Upson’s mother who enjoyed a Pepsi every day. MMDP comprises complex sculptures made of Pepsi cans reminiscent of ancient artifacts—an effect created by filling the empty soda containers with liquid aluminum so that their surface looks charred—as well as videos that feature the artist among the aisles of Costco megastores where her mother shopped. Throughout these projects, drawings often provide the springboard for accompanying sculptural works. Large-scale and reminiscent of detailed journals, Upson’s drawings are filled with precisely rendered images and text, and they can take years to complete as the artist repeatedly returns to them to add visual, temporal and intellectual layers to their lush surfaces.

The scale and ambition of Upson’s projects have steadily expanded, culminating in room-sized installations blending set-like structures, sculptures, performative videos and sound. For the 2019 Venice Biennale, she recreated her mother’s childhood dollhouse and that of a friend by enlarging them to over-life-size scale. The resulting installation, There is No Such Thing as Outside (2017–19), offered a meditation on the self and the other and the insistent pull of nostalgia. Upson’s exhibition Go Back the Way You Came at Kunsthalle Basel (2019) similarly transformed the exhibition space into a weighty, multi-partite homage to another loaded object: the felled tree outside her childhood home. In both bodies of work, disquieting videos feature performances by the artist and a second woman, each made up to approximate each other’s faces, as they compulsively repeat fragments of speech and revisit repressed memories and traumas.

Overall, Upson’s work considers the overlaps, fissures and disjunctions between our interior worlds and exterior reality, not just conceptually, but also through her embodied process of casting, “skinning” and inverting objects. Embracing quasi-archaeological, forensic strategies, the artist creates uncanny, layered scenarios with the power to surface repressed desires and memories—both personal and collective—with unexpected force. Her work evokes radically destabilized subjects and presents a critical portrait of late-capitalist American culture with its many fetishes, obsessions, neuroses and repressed fantasies.

 

Kaari Upson: Go Back The Way You Came
Kunsthalle Basel, August 30–November 10, 2019

Works
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson
Night Splitter, 2019

Kaari Upson
Night Splitter, 2019
HD film, color, with sound
15:49 min

More views
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson
Oma 5, 2019

Kaari Upson
Oma 5, 2019
MDF and acrylic paint
52 × 33 × 35 cm
21 × 13 × 14 inches

More views
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson
Stump, 2017–19

Kaari Upson
Stump, 2017–19
Aqua resin
154.9 × 190.5 × 177.8 cm
61 × 75 × 70 inches

Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson
Mother's Legs, 2018–19

Kaari Upson
Mother's Legs, 2018–19
Urethane, wood and pigment
26 parts, each 213 × 20 × 30 cm
26 parts, each 83 7/8 × 7 7/8 × 11 7/8 inches

Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson
Aqua-Fresh, 2014–16

Kaari Upson
Aqua-Fresh, 2014–16
Silicone, pigment, nylon and fiberglass
200.7 × 154.9 × 22.9 cm
79 × 61 × 9 inches

More views
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson
PARTICULAR KIND OF GUILT, 2012–18

Kaari Upson
PARTICULAR KIND OF GUILT, 2012–18
Graphite and ink on paper
362 × 184.2 cm
142 1/2 × 72 1/2 inches

More views
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson
In Search of the Perfect Double (I), 2016

Kaari Upson
In Search of the Perfect Double (I), 2016
Urethane, pigment and aluminum
200.7 × 78.7 × 193 cm
79 × 31 × 76 inches

Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson
My Mom Drinks Pepsi II, 2015

Kaari Upson
My Mom Drinks Pepsi II, 2015
Aluminum, stainless steel and powder-coated steel
130 × 164 × 13 cm
51 1/8 × 64 5/8 × 5 1/8 inches

More views
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson
House Worry, 2019

Kaari Upson
House Worry, 2019
HD video, color, with sound
9:06 min

More views
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS OUTSIDE, 2017–19

Kaari Upson
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS OUTSIDE, 2017–19
Site-specific installation, video, MDF, resin, silicone, urethane, pine wood, plywood, aqua resin, pigment, spray paint, foam, steel, aluminum and plaster
Dimensions variable

More views
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson
Cumulus Day, 2014

Kaari Upson
Cumulus Day, 2014
Urethane and pigment
83.8 × 83.8 × 167.6 cm
33 × 33 × 66 inches

More views
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson
Recluse Brown, 2015/2016

Kaari Upson
Recluse Brown, 2015/2016
4-channel video installation, color, with sound
32:19 min

More views
Details
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
Night Splitter, 2019
HD film, color, with sound
15:49 min

Kaari Upson
Night Splitter, 2019
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
Night Splitter, 2019 (film still)

Kaari Upson
Night Splitter, 2019
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
Night Splitter, 2019 (film still)

Kaari Upson
Night Splitter, 2019
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
Night Splitter, 2019 (film still)

Kaari Upson
Night Splitter, 2019
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
Night Splitter, 2019 (film still)

Kaari Upson
Night Splitter, 2019
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
Night Splitter, 2019 (film still)

Kaari Upson
Night Splitter, 2019
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
Oma 5, 2019
MDF and acrylic paint
52 × 33 × 35 cm
21 × 13 × 14 inches

Kaari Upson
Oma 5, 2019
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
Oma 5, 2019 (detail)

Kaari Upson
Oma 5, 2019
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
Oma 5, 2019 (detail)

Kaari Upson
Oma 5, 2019
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
Oma 5, 2019 (detail)

Kaari Upson
Oma 5, 2019
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
Stump, 2017–19
Aqua resin
154.9 × 190.5 × 177.8 cm
61 × 75 × 70 inches

Kaari Upson
Stump, 2017–19
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
Mother's Legs, 2018–19
Urethane, wood and pigment
26 parts, each 213 × 20 × 30 cm
26 parts, each 83 7/8 × 7 7/8 × 11 7/8 inches

Kaari Upson
Mother's Legs, 2018–19
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
Aqua-Fresh, 2014–16
Silicone, pigment, nylon and fiberglass
200.7 × 154.9 × 22.9 cm
79 × 61 × 9 inches

Kaari Upson
Aqua-Fresh, 2014–16
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
Aqua-Fresh, 2014–16

Kaari Upson
Aqua-Fresh, 2014–16
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
Aqua-Fresh, 2014–16

Kaari Upson
Aqua-Fresh, 2014–16
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
Aqua-Fresh, 2014–16 (detail)

Kaari Upson
Aqua-Fresh, 2014–16
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
PARTICULAR KIND OF GUILT, 2012–18
Graphite and ink on paper
362 × 184.2 cm
142 1/2 × 72 1/2 inches

Kaari Upson
PARTICULAR KIND OF GUILT, 2012–18
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
PARTICULAR KIND OF GUILT, 2012–18 (detail)

Kaari Upson
PARTICULAR KIND OF GUILT, 2012–18
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
PARTICULAR KIND OF GUILT, 2012–18 (detail)

Kaari Upson
PARTICULAR KIND OF GUILT, 2012–18
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
In Search of the Perfect Double (I), 2016
Urethane, pigment and aluminum
200.7 × 78.7 × 193 cm
79 × 31 × 76 inches

Kaari Upson
In Search of the Perfect Double (I), 2016
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
My Mom Drinks Pepsi II, 2015
Aluminum, stainless steel and powder-coated steel
130 × 164 × 13 cm
51 1/8 × 64 5/8 × 5 1/8 inches

Kaari Upson
My Mom Drinks Pepsi II, 2015
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
My Mom Drinks Pepsi II, 2015 (detail)

Kaari Upson
My Mom Drinks Pepsi II, 2015
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
My Mom Drinks Pepsi II, 2015 (detail)

Kaari Upson
My Mom Drinks Pepsi II, 2015
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
My Mom Drinks Pepsi II, 2015 (detail)

Kaari Upson
My Mom Drinks Pepsi II, 2015
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
House Worry, 2019
HD video, color, with sound
9:06 min

Kaari Upson
House Worry, 2019
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
House Worry, 2019 (film still)

Kaari Upson
House Worry, 2019
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
House Worry, 2019 (film still)

Kaari Upson
House Worry, 2019
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
House Worry, 2019 (film still)

Kaari Upson
House Worry, 2019
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
House Worry, 2019 (film still)

Kaari Upson
House Worry, 2019
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
House Worry, 2019 (film still)

Kaari Upson
House Worry, 2019
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
House Worry, 2019 (film still)

Kaari Upson
House Worry, 2019
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
House Worry, 2019 (film still)

Kaari Upson
House Worry, 2019
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS OUTSIDE, 2017–19
Site-specific installation, video, MDF, resin, silicone, urethane, pine wood, plywood, aqua resin, pigment, spray paint, foam, steel, aluminum and plaster
Dimensions variable

Kaari Upson
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS OUTSIDE, 2017–19
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS OUTSIDE, 2017–19 (detail)

Kaari Upson
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS OUTSIDE, 2017–19
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS OUTSIDE, 2017–19 (detail)

Kaari Upson
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS OUTSIDE, 2017–19
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS OUTSIDE, 2017–19 (detail)

Kaari Upson
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS OUTSIDE, 2017–19
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS OUTSIDE, 2017–19 (detail)

Kaari Upson
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS OUTSIDE, 2017–19
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS OUTSIDE, 2017–19 (detail)

Kaari Upson
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS OUTSIDE, 2017–19
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS OUTSIDE, 2017–19 (detail)

Kaari Upson
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS OUTSIDE, 2017–19
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS OUTSIDE, 2017–19 (detail)

Kaari Upson
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS OUTSIDE, 2017–19
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS OUTSIDE, 2017–19 (detail)

Kaari Upson
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS OUTSIDE, 2017–19
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
Cumulus Day, 2014
Urethane and pigment
83.8 × 83.8 × 167.6 cm
33 × 33 × 66 inches

Kaari Upson
Cumulus Day, 2014
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
Cumulus Day, 2014 (detail)

Kaari Upson
Cumulus Day, 2014
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
Cumulus Day, 2014 (detail)

Kaari Upson
Cumulus Day, 2014
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
Cumulus Day, 2014 (detail)

Kaari Upson
Cumulus Day, 2014
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
Recluse Brown, 2015/2016
4-channel video installation, color, with sound
32:19 min

Kaari Upson
Recluse Brown, 2015/2016
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
Recluse Brown, 2015/2016 (film still)

Kaari Upson
Recluse Brown, 2015/2016
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
Recluse Brown, 2015/2016 (film still)

Kaari Upson
Recluse Brown, 2015/2016
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
Recluse Brown, 2015/2016 (film still)

Kaari Upson
Recluse Brown, 2015/2016
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
Recluse Brown, 2015/2016 (installation view)

Kaari Upson
Recluse Brown, 2015/2016
Details
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Current and Upcoming
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson, (J. O.) Dead Twin, 2013 (detail). Collection of the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Gift of the Bronzini Vender Family Collection, 2018. © Kaari Upson

Don't let this be easy
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
July 30, 2020–July 4, 2021

Presented in conjunction with the Feminist Art Coalition (FAC), a nationwide effort involving more than 50 museums committed to social justice and structural change, this exhibition highlights the diverse and experimental practices of women artists spanning some 50 years through a selection of paintings, sculptures, moving image works, artists’ books, and materials from the archives.

Link

So wie wir sind 2.0 / The Way We Are 2.0
Weserburg Museum für moderne Kunst, Bremen
February 15, 2020–January 10, 2021

This exhibition brings together more than 180 works from more than 100 artists from various times and contexts in a wide-ranging investigation of content and form. Themes arise from such perspectives as artistic approaches to identity and traditions of landscape, a varied play with everyday life and aspects of urban life, the meaning of coincidence and of the body, minimalist tendencies and social resistance.

Link
Kaari Upson
Kaari Upson, MMDP, 2016. Sammlung Haus N. © Kaari Upson
Exhibitions at Sprüth Magers
Kaari Upson

Kaari Upson
MMDP
November 22, 2016–January 14, 2017
Berlin

MMDP is Kaari Upson’s first solo exhibition with the gallery and her first in Germany. Upson’s practice is rooted in the question of contamination, unearthing the space between the self and the other, the indeterminable zone of "both." By investigating the domestic environment, Upson presents the wealth of emotional material that a familiar object or space can contain, exude, and expel; we leak all over our things, and they, in turn, leak their thingness back onto us.

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Press

Ich vertraue meinen Instinkten
Kunstforum International, interview by Michael Stoeber, January-February 2020

Kaari Upson. Door, Open, Shut
ArtReview, review by Raimar Stange, December 2019

I am Asking What It Is Not
Mousse, artist feature by Kaari Upson, Summer 2019

A White Picket Fence, Open Floor Plan, Traumatic Imprinting
Flaunt, feature by Shana Nys Dambrot, Spring 2019

The New Domestic Landscape
Kaleidoscope, essay by Franklin Melendez, Spring/Summer 2018

An Interview with Kaari Upson
Even, interview by Jason Farago, Summer 2016

Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better.
Flash Art, interview by Douglas Fogle, January–February 2014

Biography

Kaari Upson (*1972, San Bernardino, CA) lives and works in New York and Los Angeles. Solo shows include those at Kunsthalle Basel (2019), Kunstverein Hannover, Hanover (2019), New Museum, New York (2017), and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2007). Recent group exhibitions include the 58th Venice Biennale (2019); La Triennale de Milano (2018); 15th Istanbul Biennial (2017), the 2017 Whitney Biennial, and others at Aspen Art Museum (2019), Yuz Museum, Shanghai (2018), Bergen Kunsthall (2016), Aïshti Foundation, Beirut (2015–16), Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2015), The High Line, New York (2015), Rubell Family Collection, Miami (2015), Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2014), CAPC Musée d’art contemporain, Bordeaux (2014), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2013), and SITE Santa Fe (2010).

Education
2007 MFA, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA
2004 BFA, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA
1998 New York Studio School, New York
Public Collections
CAPC Musée d'art contemporain de Bordeaux
Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, The Hague
Hammer Museum, Los Angeles
Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
Marciano Art Foundation, Los Angeles
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Museum Voorlinden, Wassenaar
Rubell Family Collection and Contemporary Arts Foundation, Miami
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York