Kilimnik's Déjeuner sur l'herbe

Elena Soboleva
Oct 5, 2012 10:36PM

Last Spring, I visited the opening of the Karen Kilimnik show at the Brant Foundation Art Study Center in Connecticut. The idyllic country setting and surrounding polo fields offered a perfect setting for her work and a respite from the daze of New York’s first iteration of the Frieze Art Fair.

The exhibition brought together a selection of Kilimnik’s new and historical works from the past three decades, evoking the history of painting through the construction of romantic narratives which drew on her personal flights of fancy. The intimate-scaled canvases depicting estate interiors, animals, chateaux and country cottages, portraits of mysterious women, as well as dashing suitors, and sweeping period landscapes were set alongside hand-painted wallpaper and room installations outfitted by the artist.

Walking through the carefully conceived environments, viewers wandered from a voodoo den into an open hall with Napoleon’s Egyptian expeditionary tent, each space offering a uniquely vision of the past. Entering through an Uffizi-inspired marbled arch I encountered the Fountain of Youth, a feature piece, which occupied the upstairs space. Perfectly trimmed artificial hedges encircled the bucolic garden fountain with cosmetic products of youth and beauty scattered about in tempting disarray.

Here was art mimicking life -- the white billowing tents, lounging guests and jovial laughter spilling from perfectly manicured lawns outside were transposed in Kilimnik’s painterly scenes sur l’hebre.

(images courtesy of the Art Market Monitor and Billy Farrell Agency. Original article by Elena Soboleva for the Art Market Monitor, May 14, 2012

Elena Soboleva