March 07/ WM issue #1: Karen Kilimnik, Serpentine Gallery, London

March 07/ WM issue #1: Karen Kilimnik, Serpentine Gallery, London
KAREN KILIMNIK, Marie Antoinette out for a walk at her petite Hermitage, France, 1750 2005 water soluble oil color on canvas 20 x 16 inches

For those who love blurring the line between historical and current, fact and fiction, old and new, the Karen Kilimnik exhibition is sure to please. 

Kilimnik has long been interested in the power of the playwright who has the ability to create a fictional world filled with characters and scenes of her own imagination. This interest is what either makes or breaks the current exhibition at the Serpentine, depending on whether or not the gallery observer finds the artificiality too overwhelming.

When walking through the gallery one notices that many of the faces in the paintings are familiar, although the title of the paintings do not necessarily let on. For example, the painting entitled Prince Desirée on a break from Sleeping beauty Out at Petrossian’s for dinner (1998) casts Leonardo DiCaprio as the star of Sleeping Beauty. In another painting we see the familiar face of celebrity tabloids star, Paris Hilton, cast as Marie Antoinette, in the painting Marie Antoinette out for her walk (2005).

Other artwork on display includes drawings of horses, reminiscent of far off fairy tale lands. These drawings tend to incorporate a lot of white space and minimal color. They are rather childlike. Perhaps this is a conscious choice to represent the innocence of childhood that is associated with the land of fantasy.

One of the most interesting features of the exhibition is the rococo room, the antechamber, an installation in one of the display rooms. As one walks through the installation, the sounds of somewhat cliché baroque music can be heard. 

Overall, the exhibition is a cross between pop culture of the past and present (including a portrait of author Mary Shelley) topped with a large helping of images of pastoral country-sides and fantasy, all in a carefully contrived world that is neither here nor there and finished off with a dash of superficiality.

The many paintings of Tudor style homes and images of the countryside, are reminiscent of paintings from the 18th and 19th century.

If you do intend on seeing the exhibition be careful when you first enter the main gallery, or else you may find yourself stepping on tarot cards or tripping over a candelabrum, items which have been carefully arranged on the floor by the artist.

The exhibition is currently going until 9 April 2007 and has been organized by the Serpentine Gallery in association with the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris/ARC. The Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, will also present a major exhibition of Kilimnik’s work in April 2007.

All images Courtesy of 303 Galley, New York;
Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich; Spruth Magers, Munich
all images copyright 2006/2007 Karen Kilimnik

whitehot gallery images, click a thumbnail.

Veronica Paez

Veronica Paez is a freelance journalist in London.

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