Installation view, Karen Kilimnik, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Löwenbräu Areal, Zurich, 2008–2009
Galerie Eva Presenhuber is pleased to present a solo exhibition by Karen Kilimnik, featuring recent works. The American artist, who has been represented by Eva Presenhuber since 1995, became known in the early nineties. Following major overview exhibitions at the ICA, Philadelphia (2006), the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (2008), the ARC in Paris (2006), and the Serpentine Gallery in London (2007), she is currently preparing a promising show for Zurich, the core of which will be an installation-based presentation of a ballet titled "Sleeping Beauty + Friends", which she has helped choreograph, and which premiered at the New Players Theatre in London in 2007. Also on view will be new oil paintings, drawings, and objects, carefully arranged in a spatial situation that the artist will be creating especially for this Zurich show. This setting, which can be entered through a classicist-like doorway, will be complemented by a large series of photographic works.
With her obsessive oeuvre, Karen Kilimnik has been evoking a world saturated by seemingly trivial desires and longings since her early years. The glamor of fashion serves just as much as a means of projection as do TV series, the rainbow press, or the world of ballet: hovering students, dying swans, or dead squirrels are suitable protagonists for her art, which is filled with girls' dreams. In her drawings, Karen Kilimnik combines beauties traced from magazines with lifted quotations, and her own, sometimes quite caustic comments. Her oil paintings, by contrast, appear rather traditional, except that they tell of a sense of tradition that the artist does not derive from her reflection on the art of the past, but from the popularized repertoire of the media industry. While producing her paintings, Karen Kilimnik appropriates seemingly romantic landscapes, castles, and pedigree dogs. No less memorable are her sensitive photographs, which show sceneries from Central Park, landscapes, or shop windows. What makes them sensational is the fact that they spot the media fantasies that characterize Karen Kilimnik's motifs outside the realm of fiction, within a, as it seems, authentic reality. The American artist has left her mark on art history both with her way of taking pictures and her succinct, obsessive installations: She uses striking props and open-mindedly assembles finds, cheap decoration material, and luxury furnishings to form powerful images.
The straightforwardness that Karen Kilimnik truly celebrates constitutes, up to this very day, the breaking of a taboo. Her work is, in terms of formalness and content, a balancing act. The insistence with which she has been pursuing her own path for years, however, is the most compelling argument for acknowledging her approach as being far more profound than one was tempted to believe at the beginning of her career. While her early work was interpreted as a both disrespectful and trendsetting flirt with the morbidity of the zeitgeist, it is the exact opposite that has come to the fore more recently: the utterly non-ironical seriousness with which Karen Kilimnik holds on to her themes.