Sprüth Magers

Karen Kilimnik

07 Feb - 08 Mar 2014

Karen Kilimnik
07/02/2014 – 05/03/2014
Over the past two decades, Karen Kilimnik has become known for her playful treatment of
celebrities and nostalgia, combing 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 lowbrow fame 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.
The core of the exhibition is a group of new still life photographs, many set in a leafy,
bucolic landscape. The mood of the show is established in A summers day picnic, where a
small picnic of tea and biscuits is laid out on a small patchwork towel, as ornamental as it is
nourishing. Here we find some of the key motifs in this body of work: an artificial bird, a
large silver vase filled with flowers, cheap, everyday food and cosmetic jewelry all occupy
the same ritualistic space. The picnic itself is at once casual and elaborate, its ersatz
pageantry suggesting that a group of children were acting out a fairytale of their own
devising. The mix of childishness and magic continues into The golden coins in the forest,
where two blue tits appear to be protecting a Chanel charm bracelet. In Fox with winter
cache of food in the winter cave fox den, a jewel-bedecked fox astride a gold ring looks
over his snowy smorgasbord of schnitzel, cake and a cherry-topped sundae. Kilimnik
deploys little throwaway toys to create tableaux that invoke stories, yet the viewer is in the
position of trying to come up with tales that might match the pictures. The mood alters in
Runway in field french countryside 1943, french resistance, (all 2013), where a WWII - era
Lancaster bomber completes a circle formed by six little candles. This mysterious ritual, at
once childish and sinister, triggers a new range of ideas about the nature of the toys and
their origin, or perhaps a darker history of the land upon which the rituals are enacted.
The toy planes that Kilimnik uses in the photographs will also be exhibited. The model
Spitfires and Lancaster bombers, encrusted in jewels and placed on plinths, become
decorative objects, useless even as toys or models. The rituals and tableaux depicted in
the photographs might be taking place in the grounds of an aristocratic chateau or in the
forests of Burgundy, alongside some of the most famous and prestigious vineyards in the
world. Kilimnik collects objects and images of fantasy, privilege and power, and transforms
them with deft acts of decoration, a gesture that is both playful and iconoclastic. Images of
wealth, artificiality and magic all occupy the same theatrical space, emphasizing how
structures of authority can be undermined – or bolstered – by the wide-eyed innocence of a
Karen Kilimnik (born 1955, Philadelphia, USA) studied at the Temple University in her
hometown where she lives and works today. Major solo exhibitions include the Museum of
Contemporary Art, Denver (2012), the Belvedere, Vienna (2010), the Musée d'Art Moderne
de la Ville de Paris (2006), the Serpentine Gallery, London, the Institute of Contemporary
Art in Philadelphia, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Museum of
Contemporary Art, Miami and Le Consortium, Dijon (all 2007), the Fondazione Belvilacqua
La Masa, Venice (2005) and the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2002). Major group
exhibitions include the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2008), the Van
Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, the MoMA PS1, New York (both 2006), the MoMA, New York
(2005, 2001, 1999), the Institute of Contemporary Art, London (1997, 1992), and the
Secession, Vienna (1994). In 2011 Kilimnik created a stage setting for the ballet Psyche at
the Opéra National de Paris.

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