Artist Interview—Knowledge Bennett’s Use of History and Appropriation
Bennett’s work featuring 2016 presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton holding her proverbial “cojones” is part of the artist’s most popular series to date with the eponymous title “Cojones,” featuring various celebrities and popular figures holding their, well, cojones. Bennett takes an original 1989 portrait of Slick Rick and superimposes images of famous personalities ranging from artistic legends like Prince, Biggie, Madonna, and Marilyn Monroe to politicians like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. When faced with Bennett’s work, one must refamiliarize himself or herself with recent western art histories in addition to questioning the circumstances of their immediate realities—for instance, what does a portrait of Hillary Clinton proudly fondling her “junk” say about individuality, difference, and power? The artist’s suggestion seems to reach preconceptions that have followed the pantsuit-wearing Clinton throughout her political career, including her days as First Lady.
Signature: Signed and dated in black marker on verso "Knowledge Bennett 2015"
Inspired by 1960s Pop Art, Knowledge Bennett remixes Andy Warhol’s iconic silkscreens with the celebrities of today, creating graphic portraits of Rihanna, Kanye West, and Donald Trump that range from playful to political. Bennett is most known for his “Cojones” series, which casts audacious figures in a crotch-grabbing pose, appropriated from Janette Beckman’s 1989 photograph of Hip Hop artist Slick Rick. “In today’s world of social media saturation, people’s attention spans are at an all time low,” explains Bennett, “The visual artist must present something so arresting, enabling his/her statement to literally stop people in their tracks.”
American, b. 1976, Asbury Park, New Jersey, based in Los Angeles, California