Karen Kilimnik

Me as Isabelle Adjani in Ishtar, Part II, 1994 (detail)

 

In a diverse practice that draws upon the tradition of Romantic painting, Karen Kilimnik (*1955) utilizes painting, drawing, collage, photography, video and installation to produce nuanced and playful observations of historical codes and symbols. Reveling in both mass and high culture, George Stubbs, Jean-Baptiste Oudry and the ballet are as important for Kilimnik as The Avengers, Kate Moss and pop music, forcing such distinctions to collapse into her own specific mélange of cultural influence and production.

 

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Kilimnik’s early work from the late 1980s and early 1990s are complex mise-en scènes that extend from the wall to the floor. Usually consisting of artifacts strewn amidst the gallery with seeming carelessness, painted backdrops and scribbled allusions to a narrative, they are often born of a certain fandom or interest in celebrity culture that is evident across her practice. Specific episodes of cult British television programs were the impetus for a number of these installations and in Paris Is burning (1991) / Is Paris burning? (1944) (1992), Kilimnik merges the documentary about New York drag sororities with a Hollywood movie about the pending destruction of occupied Paris. Seemingly incongruous moments and events are rolled into one through the use of props within a stage set, historical fact presented as theatre.

The artist also became one of the main proponents of the resurgence of figurative painting in the early 1990s, coming to prominence with portraits of figures both semi-fictional and real, derived from the worlds of music, film, fashion and royalty and aristocracy. Figures from the present are dragged into historical overtures, becoming characters in scenarios that draw from disparate sources to form veiled critiques of conventional concepts of beauty, romanticism and glamor. My Sister and Me – by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1986) imagines the artist as a Baroque painting from a Met Museum postcard of the aforementioned British portraits of the eighteenth century, executed with similar blushing cheeks and unfurling fabrics, with The goddess Artemis’s afternoon snack, Moreton-on-marsh, the cotswolds (2009) placing a charming picnic for the Greek goddess in the artist’s beloved English countryside.

Despite what appears as a childlike obsessiveness with her subjects, Kilimnik is primarily interested in their personalities rather than their public-facing personas. The worlds she creates simultaneously draw from major events, a recurring series for example of maps that color in the boundaries of shifting territories across war in the twentieth century, to more general themes such as English country houses, Delftware or fairies. Often her paintings and drawings come to inhabit carefully produced stage sets, theatrical environments that viewers can experience as though part of the artist’s self-contained worlds, that bear a similarity to early installations. The Forest in La Bayadère (2003–2020) recreates an enchanted forest from the Russian ballet, replete with music and even a toy owl, offering an environment for her paintings on ballet. Her 2012 exhibition at the Brant Foundation, Greenwich, Connecticut presented a variety of installations, resplendent with wallpaper, wood paneling, artificial snow, fountains and era-appropriate furniture. Works are likewise animated within the existing collections of institutions, creating new narratives with an aesthetic still reminiscent of the private boudoirs or salons of the nineteenth century. Throughout, a reworking of cultural codes and mores reveals an artistic realm where a mystical past is consciously evoked in the present, veiled in an air of earnest mystery and delight.

 

Works
Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik
Degas painting hair ornament accessories bag world, 2004

Karen Kilimnik
Degas painting hair ornament accessories bag world, 2004
Water soluble oil color on canvas
27.3 × 35.6 cm
10 3/4 × 14 inches

Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik
Rudolph appearing on stage in 1999 for Christmas, 1999

Karen Kilimnik
Rudolph appearing on stage in 1999 for Christmas, 1999
Water soluble oil color on canvas
50.8 × 40.6 cm
20 × 16 inches

Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik
Shadow, 2013

Karen Kilimnik
Shadow, 2013
Water soluble oil color on canvas
51.4 × 61 cm
20 1/4 × 24 inches

Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik
Scout's map, 2004

Karen Kilimnik
Scout's map, 2004
Water soluble oil color on canvas
50.8 × 61 cm
20 × 24 inches

Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik
Me, Corner of Haight & Ashbury, 1966, 1998

Karen Kilimnik
Me, Corner of Haight & Ashbury, 1966, 1998
Water soluble oil color on canvas
45.7 × 35.6 cm
18 × 14 inches

Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik
Paris Is burning (1991) / Is Paris burning? (1944), 1992

Karen Kilimnik
Paris Is burning (1991) / Is Paris burning? (1944), 1992
Mixed media
Dimensions variable

More views
Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik
"Winston" pet society stray cat (paper Kenny's present from London, England), 1979

Karen Kilimnik
'Winston' pet society stray cat (paper Kenny's present from London, England), 1979
Ink on paper
21 × 14.6 cm
8 1/4 × 5 3/4 inches

More views
Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik
Tiffany on the way to ballet class in January, 2011

Karen Kilimnik
Tiffany on the way to ballet class in January, 2011
Water soluble oil color on canvas
35.6 × 27.9 cm
14 × 11 inches

Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik
The medieval cottage tapestry, 2014

Karen Kilimnik
The medieval cottage tapestry, 2014
Water soluble oil color on canvas
41.3 × 51.4 cm
16 1/4 × 20 1/4 inches

Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik
Kate Moss, 1993

Karen Kilimnik
Kate Moss, 1993
Crayon on paper
44 × 35 cm
17 1/4 × 13 7/8 inches

Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik
The Joker Episode of the Avengers, 1991

Karen Kilimnik
The Joker Episode of the Avengers, 1991
Mixed media
Dimensions variable

More views
Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik
Secret agent club, London, Mayfair, 2017

Karen Kilimnik
Secret agent club, London, Mayfair, 2017
Water soluble oil color on canvas
30.5 × 23.5 cm
12 × 9 1/4 inches

Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik
The goddess Artemis's afternoon snack, Moreton-on-marsh, the cotswolds, 2009

Karen Kilimnik
The goddess Artemis's afternoon snack, Moreton-on-marsh, the cotswolds, 2009
Water soluble oil color on canvas
50.8 × 40.6 cm
20 × 16 inches

Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik
Helter Skelter, 1992

Karen Kilimnik
Helter Skelter, 1992
Acrylic, costume jewelry and turkey fork
Dimensions variable

More views
Details
Karen Kilimnik

Karen Kilimnik
Degas painting hair ornament accessories bag world, 2004
Water soluble oil color on canvas
27.3 × 35.6 cm
10 3/4 × 14 inches

Karen Kilimnik
Degas painting hair ornament accessories bag world, 2004
Karen Kilimnik

Karen Kilimnik
Rudolph appearing on stage in 1999 for Christmas, 1999
Water soluble oil color on canvas
50.8 × 40.6 cm
20 × 16 inches

Karen Kilimnik
Rudolph appearing on stage in 1999 for Christmas, 1999
Karen Kilimnik

Karen Kilimnik
Shadow, 2013
Water soluble oil color on canvas
51.4 × 61 cm
20 1/4 × 24 inches

Karen Kilimnik
Shadow, 2013
Karen Kilimnik

Karen Kilimnik
Scout's map, 2004
Water soluble oil color on canvas
50.8 × 61 cm
20 × 24 inches

Karen Kilimnik
Scout's map, 2004
Karen Kilimnik

Karen Kilimnik
Me, Corner of Haight & Ashbury, 1966, 1998
Water soluble oil color on canvas
45.7 × 35.6 cm
18 × 14 inches

Karen Kilimnik
Me, Corner of Haight & Ashbury, 1966, 1998
Karen Kilimnik

Karen Kilimnik
Paris Is burning (1991) / Is Paris burning? (1944), 1992
Mixed media
Dimensions variable

Karen Kilimnik
Paris Is burning (1991) / Is Paris burning? (1944), 1992
Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik

Karen Kilimnik
Paris Is Burning (1991) / Is Paris Burning? (1944), 1992 (detail)

Karen Kilimnik
Paris Is Burning (1991) / Is Paris Burning? (1944), 1992
Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik

Karen Kilimnik
Paris Is Burning (1991) / Is Paris Burning? (1944), 1992 (detail)

Karen Kilimnik
Paris Is Burning (1991) / Is Paris Burning? (1944), 1992
Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik

Karen Kilimnik
Paris Is Burning (1991) / Is Paris Burning? (1944), 1992 (detail)

Karen Kilimnik
Paris Is Burning (1991) / Is Paris Burning? (1944), 1992
Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik

Karen Kilimnik
Paris Is Burning (1991) / Is Paris Burning? (1944), 1992 (detail)

Karen Kilimnik
Paris Is Burning (1991) / Is Paris Burning? (1944), 1992
Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik

Karen Kilimnik
Paris Is Burning (1991) / Is Paris Burning? (1944), 1992 (detail)

Karen Kilimnik
Paris Is Burning (1991) / Is Paris Burning? (1944), 1992
Karen Kilimnik

Karen Kilimnik
'Winston' pet society stray cat (paper Kenny's present from London, England), 1979
Ink on paper
21 × 14.6 cm
8 1/4 × 5 3/4 inches

Karen Kilimnik
"Winston" pet society stray cat (paper Kenny's present from London, England), 1979
Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik

Karen Kilimnik
'Winston' pet society stray cat (paper Kenny's present from London, England), 1979 (detail)

Karen Kilimnik
"Winston" pet society stray cat (paper Kenny's present from London, England), 1979
Karen Kilimnik

Karen Kilimnik
Tiffany on the way to ballet class in January, 2011
Water soluble oil color on canvas
35.6 × 27.9 cm
14 × 11 inches

Karen Kilimnik
Tiffany on the way to ballet class in January, 2011
Karen Kilimnik

Karen Kilimnik
The medieval cottage tapestry, 2014
Water soluble oil color on canvas
41.3 × 51.4 cm
16 1/4 × 20 1/4 inches

Karen Kilimnik
The medieval cottage tapestry, 2014
Karen Kilimnik

Karen Kilimnik
Kate Moss, 1993
Crayon on paper
44 × 35 cm
17 1/4 × 13 7/8 inches

Karen Kilimnik
Kate Moss, 1993
Karen Kilimnik

Karen Kilimnik
The Joker Episode of the Avengers, 1991
Mixed media
Dimensions variable

Karen Kilimnik
The Joker Episode of the Avengers, 1991
Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik

Karen Kilimnik
The Joker Episode of the Avengers, 1991 (detail)

Karen Kilimnik
The Joker Episode of the Avengers, 1991
Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik

Karen Kilimnik
The Joker Episode of the Avengers, 1991 (detail)

Karen Kilimnik
The Joker Episode of the Avengers, 1991
Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik

Karen Kilimnik
The Joker Episode of the Avengers, 1991 (detail)

Karen Kilimnik
The Joker Episode of the Avengers, 1991
Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik

Karen Kilimnik
The Joker Episode of the Avengers, 1991 (detail)

Karen Kilimnik
The Joker Episode of the Avengers, 1991
Karen Kilimnik

Karen Kilimnik
Secret agent club, London, Mayfair, 2017
Water soluble oil color on canvas
30.5 × 23.5 cm
12 × 9 1/4 inches

Karen Kilimnik
Secret agent club, London, Mayfair, 2017
Karen Kilimnik

Karen Kilimnik
The goddess Artemis's afternoon snack, Moreton-on-marsh, the cotswolds, 2009
Water soluble oil color on canvas
50.8 × 40.6 cm
20 × 16 inches

Karen Kilimnik
The goddess Artemis's afternoon snack, Moreton-on-marsh, the cotswolds, 2009
Karen Kilimnik

Karen Kilimnik
Helter Skelter, 1992
Acrylic, costume jewelry and turkey fork
Dimensions variable

Karen Kilimnik
Helter Skelter, 1992
Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik

Karen Kilimnik
Helter Skelter, 1992 (detail)

Karen Kilimnik
Installation view, Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles, September 12–October 26, 2019
Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik

Karen Kilimnik
Helter Skelter, 1992 (detail)

Karen Kilimnik
Installation view, Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles, September 12–October 26, 2019
Details
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Current and Upcoming
Karen Kilimnik
Dream Baby Dream, installation view, Haus Mödrath - Räume für Kunst, Kerpen, February 2–December 20, 2020 Photo: Simon Vogel

Dream Baby Dream
Haus Mödrath – Räume für Kunst, Kerpen
February 2–December 20, 2020

The childhood home is a place of fantasy, protection, and play. But it can also be one of trauma, violence, and fear. The home is where it’s decided who we are, what will become of us, and what we will repress. For many artists, the impulse to create is rooted in childhood. Through art, they transmute their early and ingrained experiences into something bigger, something that renews, expands, and transforms our perspective on the world.

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THIRD DIMENSION: WORKS FROM THE BRANT FOUNDATION
The Brant Foundation, New York
November 13, 2019–September 3, 2020

In light of recent developments regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19), exhibitions, events and talks are subject to change.

Third Dimension: Works from The Brant Foundation is the second exhibition at The Brant Foundation’s New York space, featuring over 20 artists integral to its collection. The selected sculptures, installations, and other works oscillating between painting and object represent the multifaceted practices of the artists on view, offering visitors the opportunity to encounter artists who have been collected in depth by Brant Foundation founder Peter M. Brant over the past 50 years. With a focus on sculpture and installation, The Brant Foundation pays tribute to the history of its East Village space, formerly the longtime studio of artist and sculptor Walter De Maria.

Link
Karen Kilimnik
THIRD DIMENSION: WORKS FROM THE BRANT FOUNDATION, installation view (detail), The Brant Foundation, New York, November 13, 2019–September 3, 2020 Photo: Tom Powel Imaging
Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik, The World at War, 2018

IT NEVER ENDS
JOHN M ARMLEDER & GUESTS

KANAL Centre Pompidou, Brussels
September 24, 2020–April 25, 2021

Swiss artist John M Armleder will take over the Showroom of the former garage on Place Sainctelette before KANAL is closed for renovation work.
For this new experimentation, John M Armleder will design both extensive devices and a multidisciplinary programme that will occupy all the storeys of the Showroom, which will remain accessible while the renovation work starts.

Link

Wolken in der zeitgenössischen Kunst
flüchtig – zeichenhaft – bedrohlich
Oldenburger Kunstverein, Oldenburg
May 15–August 16, 2020

Even as a meteorological phenomenon, clouds remain a mystery to this day. For weather and climate researchers, insufficient knowledge about their formation and development is a major reason for their uncertain analyses and forecasts. Clouds trigger sensations and reflections; they can appear massive and at the same time fleeting. This exhibition includes painting, photography, sculpture and installation that explores this phenomenon without confining the riddle of clouds into too narrow a structure.

Link
Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik, perfumed cloud, 2018, Photo: Stephen White
Exhibitions at Sprüth Magers

Karen Kilimnik
February 7–March 8, 2014
Berlin

Over the past two decades, Karen Kilimnik has become known for her playful treatment of nostalgia, combining a love for stories, costumes and magic to create highly theatrical yet intimate exhibitions. Using a wide range of media, including installation, drawing and photography, and not least her distinctive paintings, she orchestrates a range of references, from scraps of nature to the trappings of European aristocracy. In her exhibition in Berlin, adapted and expanded from her show organized by Le Consortium, Dijon, for the vineyard L’Académie Conti in Burgundy, Kilimnik will exhibit a body of work that juxtaposes images of wealth and war, fairytales and femininity.

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Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik

Karen Kilimnik
November 17, 2007–January 19, 2008
Cologne

The exhibition comprises works on paper, photographs and new oil paintings. As in her last solo exhibition at the London gallery, Kilimnik is also showing an installation of a forest, in this case a fairytale birch forest in winter. The artist for one uses well-known historical clichés; for another she cites the present in her installations. A sense of the artificial, of staging, is characteristic of her work. Since the 1990s she has been seen as a precursor for this kind of theatrical mise-en-scène installation art.

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Karen Kilimnik
June 19–July 21, 2007
London

Renowned as one of the pioneers in the early 1990’s for her deconstructed installations and assemblages of seemingly random objects with an emphasis on ‘throw away’ materials – Kilimnik’s paintings and installations are a highly personalised appropriation of historical and contemporary sources. Drawing on the world of fairy tales, romance, ballet, mysteries, various magazines and newspapers, TV, European stately homes and painters such as Stubbs, Oudry and Raeburn, Kilimnik casts these diverse elements like a stage director in her own play.

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Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik

Karen Kilimnik
Haydn-Zimmer
April 3–April 12, 2004
Salzburg

Karen Kilimnik
January 17–March 8, 2003
Munich

Karen Kilimnik
Press

No Animals Were Harmed in the Making of Karen Kilimnik’s Contribution to the Carnegie International, Cats Prevailed Cultured Magazine, article Kat Herriman, October 26, 2018

The ‘Blood and Treasure’ of Karen Kilimnik
Frieze, article by Travis Diehl, October 18, 2019

The Last Days of Rococo: Karen Kilimnik
Mousse, article by Sabrina Tarasoff, Fall 2019

Portrait. Karen Kilimnik
Spike, article Barry Schwasbsky, Summer 2017

The Good, the Bad, and the Awfully Beautiful
Parkett, article by Collier Schorr, 1998

Biography

Karen Kilimnik (*1955, Philadelphia, PA). Major solo exhibitions include Le Consortium, Dijon (2013, 2007), the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver (2013), The Brant Foundation, Greenwich (2012), the Belvedere Museum, Vienna (2010), the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (2008), the Serpentine Gallery, London (2007), the Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami (2007), the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2006), the Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa, Venice (2005), Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2002) and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia (1992). Major group exhibitions include the Haus Mödrath, Kerpen (2020), the Carnegie International, 57th Edition in Pittsburgh (2018), the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2016, 2008, 1993), the Rubell Family Collection, Miami (2015, 2010), Le Grand Palais, Paris (2013), the Tate Modern, London (2012), the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2012), the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven and the MOMA PS1, New York (both 2006), the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2005, 2001, 1999), the Institute of Contemporary Art, London (1997), and the Secession, Vienna (1994). In 2011 Kilimnik created a stage setting for the ballet Psyche at the Opéra National de Paris. In 2020 she will be part of a project at the South London Gallery, as well as of an exhibition at the Kanal – Centre Pompidou, Brussels.

Education
1974–76 Temple University, Philadelphia
Public Collections
American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York
Centre genevois de gravure contemporaine, Geneve
Fondazione Di Vignola
Fondazione Prada, Milan
Graphische Sammlung das ETH, Zurich
Guggenheim, New York
Hammer Museum, Los Angeles
Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art
Mead Art Museum at Amherst College, MA
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Sammlung Goetz, Munich
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Seattle Art Museum
Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen
The National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington
The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Windsor Collection, Bielefeld