Karen Kilimnik

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
51.5 × 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
51.5 × 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
Karen Kilimnik, Silesian princess ballerina, 2018

Ladyfinger and Fig McFlurry
Group Exhibition
56 Henry, New York
Through August 8, 2021

Ladyfinger & Fig McFlurry, a group exhibition organized by Era Myrtezaj and Shan Huq. The exhibition features twenty-one artists—whose artworks are grouped around nineteen sometimes kindred, sometimes disconnected or conflicting attributes: art, annoyed, babysitter, cynical, decadence, Evil Troll, fancy, frivolous, glamour, Henry, Irony, irrational, ladyfinger, Olaf, Post-Postmodernism, precocious, Princed, random, tragic.

Link
Karen Kilimnik

La Bohème
Group Exhibition
alfonsoartiaco, Naples
Through September 4, 2021

The exhibition curated by Eric Troncy at Alfonso Artiaco gallery is built on the tremendous suggestive power of that term, La Bohème, and celebrates artists for their capacity to conjure up whimsy and fantasy. Wackiness is a classic attribute of contemporary artworks, but whimsy is more rare, a fantasy within which freedom, childlike wonderment, unencumbered creativity and an abundance of mischief toward formal and social conventions find plenty of room to be expressed.

Link

Stop Painting
Group Exhibition
Fondazione Prada, Venice
Through November 21, 2021

Stop Painting is an exhibition conceived by artist Peter Fischli on view at the historic palazzo of Ca’ Corner della Regina, Fondazione Prada’s Venetian venue, from May 22–November 21, 2021. The press preview will take place on Wednesday, May 19th. Described by Peter Fischli as “a kaleidoscope of repudiated gestures,” the project explores a series of specific ruptures within the history of painting in the last 150 years, intertwined with the emergence of new social factors and cultural values. The exhibition also intends to understand if the current digital revolution can also cause a new crisis of painting or, on the contrary, contribute to its renewal. Fischli identified five radical ruptures caused by technological and social changes that marked artistic paradigm shifts through rejection and reinvention of painting.

Link
Karen Kilimnik
Copyright © 2015 Fondazione Prada. All rights reserved.
Exhibitions at Sprüth Magers
Karen Kilimnik

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
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
Karen Kilimnik

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
Haydn-Zimmer
April 3–April 12, 2004
Salzburg

Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik

Shadow and Light
Richard Artschwager, John Baldessari, Matthew Barney, George Condo, Walter Dahn, Olafur Eliasson, Martin Fengel, Peter Fischli  David Weiss, Dan Flavin, Sylvie Fleury, Gilbert & George, Dan Graham, Thomas Grünfeld, Andreas Gursky, Stefan Hirsig, Jenny Holzer, Axel Kasseböhmer, Stefan Kern, Karen Kilimnik, Astrid Klein, Louise Lawler, Anne Loch, Paul Morrison, Jean-Luc Mylayne, Bruce Nauman, Manuel Ocampo, Nam June Paik, Hirsch Perlman, Lari Pittman, Barbara Probst, Gerhard Richter, Ed Ruscha, Robert Ryman, Frances Scholz, Andreas Schulze, Cindy Sherman, Paul Sietsema, Rosemarie Trockel, Kara Walker, Andy Warhol, Christopher Wool, Martin Wöhrl, Philip-Lorca diCorcia
July 26–August 31, 2003
Salzburg

Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers will open a temporary space in Salzburg together with their London partner Simon Lee for the duration of the Salzburg Festival. One of the main reasons for this was the fact that the galleries are traditionally closed in August and that exhibition operations are shut down, but at the same time cultural life is at its peak in Salzburg, not far from our Munich location. It makes sense to contribute something to the cultural climate with a precisely formulated group exhibition and at the same time to reach a sophisticated international audience.

20th Anniversary Show
John Baldessari, Alighiero Boetti, George Condo, Walter Dahn, Thomas Demand, Thea Djordjadze, Peter Fischli  David Weiss, Sylvie Fleury, Andreas Gursky, Jenny Holzer, Gary Hume, Axel Kasseböhmer, Karen Kilimnik, Astrid Klein, Barbara Kruger, Louise Lawler, Jean-Luc Mylayne, Nina Pohl, Richard Prince, Ed Ruscha, Frances Scholz, Andreas Schulze, Cindy Sherman, Rosemarie Trockel, Andrea Zittel, Philip-Lorca diCorcia
April 25–October 18, 2003
Cologne

In 1983, Monika Sprüth opened her Cologne based gallery with a solo show by Andreas Schulze. Starting from the idea to establish a forum for young and unknown artists, the central focus of the gallery concept was developed in the discourse of the 80s. The gallery program was completed by recourses to artistic attitudes of the last 40 years. This research, motivated by reflection on contemporary art history, was more and more realized in cooperation with Philomene Magers who directed her Bonn gallery since 1992. After a few years of loose cooperation, Monika Sprüth Gallery and Philomene Magers Gallery aligned with each other after, and together the Monika Sprüth / Philomene Magers Gallery opened up in Munich in 1999.

Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik

Karen Kilimnik
January 17–March 8, 2003
Munich

Reflexions
Carl André, John Armleder, John Baldessari, Sylvie Fleury, Isa Genzken, Thomas Grünfeld, Stephan Jung, Karen Kilimnik, Jeff Koons, Louise Lawler, Robert Morris, Paul Morrison, Andreas Schulze, Andy Warhol, Franz West, Heimo Zobernig
January 24–March 1, 2002
Munich

Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik

Karen Kilimnik
September 8–October 21, 2000
Munich

Jahreswechsel 1995/96
George Condo, Walter Dahn, Karen Kilimnik, Cindy Sherman
December 17–December 22, 1995
Cologne

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. 

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