In Her Last Works, Kaari Upson Explores Vanity and Decay

by AryanArtnews
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Los Angeles — When I visited Kaari Upson’s studio here last month, she seemed to leave for a cup of coffee or one of the “garbage burritos” she loved so much. Her art was everywhere. New paintings and drawings covering the walls, and recent sculptures of tree trunks, look like hump-shaped legs and hang from the ceiling. There was a used mattress in the outside backyard. This is one of her favorite objects for casting with silicone due to its association with debris, gender and bed. Her pickup truck, the gray Toyota Tundra, was still parked behind. Her handwritten notes still remained on the whiteboard on the wall.

Known for producing smart, dark and relentless sculptures, videos and drawings that capture the trauma of the family and the stubborn pathology of American hedonism, the artist finally set foot in the space in June 2021. After that, I flew to New York and met a doctor of Sloan Kettering. There she discovered that her breast cancer, which had already metastasized, was progressing. In August, after nine years of fighting her cancer, she died in the hospital at the age of 51, leaving her teenage daughter Esmé Rudell.

She also left behind an amazing amount of new work created during the pandemic when the studio assistant wasn’t in and out for health reasons. The five series complete from ceramic cups with dozens of rugged slogans made from cat bandit pill molds to sets of brightly colored, elusive, rendered resin-based portraits. Was at various stages of. The Venice Biennale in April as part of Cecilia Alemani’s group show “The Milk of Dreams”. A gallery representing her property, Sprüth Magers will also be exhibiting a new selection at the Los Angeles branch from August 6th to October 8th.

“At some level, I think she knew she was going to die and wanted to do as much work as she could for Esme before she died,” she first said at the Hammer Museum in 2007 and 2009. Ali Subotnik, who curated the museum show at the museum, said, “She always worked hard. I was always painting when I saw the” Real House Wife “who was working for research. “

Vibrant and sometimes humorous resin paintings heading to Venice test the integrity of the human body. Called “Portrait (Vain German)” in honor of a German-born mother, the face shown is swollen, fragmented, or deformed. Apson started them a few months before his mother died of melanoma in April 2020, and before she also ran out of time, a total of 40, including those with clock faces instead of humans. I made. Ten people will appear in Venice.

But if these portraits refer to her mother, this is also the most scrutinized and relentless kind of self-portrait, with a sad clown-like face, an amazing skeletal smile, and a bulging cartoon eyeball. It is done in bright colors like mustard and magenta. Her blonde hair and her blue-eyed flashes connect her work to both the artist and her mother, maintaining her physical beauty in the face of her aging and illness. Brings her vanity to do. The futile German can also be seen as a contemporary take of Renaissance Vanitas painting, famous for using human skulls and clocks to symbolize the simplicity of life.

Born in San Bernardino, California in 1970, Apson grew up with a sense of violence, saying, “There is not only crime but also natural violence. There are many fires, whirls and landslides.” She once told The New York Times critic Jason Farago. But in a magazine. Her career began with a very relentless investigation into the lives of strangers who were neighbors of her parents’ playboys known as “Larry” while she was still in CalArts graduate school. She found or stole his diary and other souvenirs, depending on when you asked her, and mined them for her paintings, videos, etc. from 2005 to 2011.

“The Larry Project” quickly caught her critical attention — and compared to French privacy-invading artist Sophie Calle. However, interested in exposing the ocean floor of California’s dreams, she settles firmly in the eerie and eerie territory of artists Paul McCarthy and Mike Kelley for used and sometimes dirty home use. It was highly evaluated for making the cast of silicone and urethane of the object. Like a mattress. “Body and stains are always in my job,” she said in 2015. She also explained in that interview her interest in the “openings, navel, anus” of her household items.

In a futile German work, she returned to painting and turned more directly to the vulnerabilities of the human body. Some teeth are cracked or missing. Some heads have no hair. Margot Norton, who curated the 2017 survey at the New Museum, said she felt she was “incredibly brave” in the new series. She compared it to “a calendar in which different portraits capture fleeting moments and moods.” Some are really tortured, others are light. I feel like she was ticking. “

The highlight of the New Museum show is a costco-sized dummy with a dazzling display showing the artist in her mother’s plaid shirt and blue jeans. A disturbing new sculpture in the studio also caused family dysfunction, showing that Apson impersonated her mother and stabbed her father’s favorite brand, a bottle of Smirnoff vodka, on her back.

While he grew up in San Bernardino, the artist’s mother was born in Chemnitz, Germany during World War II and emigrated to California in her twenties. Subotnick believes Upson was particularly interested in his mother’s roots after traveling to Germany in 2019. She was trying to get to know her mother, “Subotnick said.

“But the more I think about her work, the more I look at archives, notes and paintings, the more she always tries to understand who she is by fusing her identity with these important figures in life. I think, “the curator compared. Her so-called “Kispanting” new work from the rally project. She broke her face and the portrait of his face, the canvas was still wet and fused or erased their identities.

Michael Benevent, a close friend and local gallery owner who became Apson’s de facto studio manager and assistant during the pandemic, took a different view of his new job. “I think she was exploring this Aryan beauty ideal. It’s a way for people to dye their hair blonde and wear blue contacts to make themselves look beautiful,” he said. .. It’s an ugly beauty. (Benevento and Subotnick are both currently working with the estate.)

The process of creating useless German portraits also enabled a sense of ugliness and awkwardness. The work began with a much smaller painting of 5 x 4 inches, and Apson outlined his facial tips and incorporated materials like his own hair lumps.

Next, the machine carved a foam board that was manufactured based on a miniature scan, but the board was so large that details were blurred or broken along the way. She had previously experimented with this kind of deliberate distortion when blasting dollhouse furniture to life-size and super-large ratios for the 2019 Venice Biennale installation “ What’s Not Outside”. I did.

Next, I used a foam board to create a silicone mold, which I combined with media such as spray paint, urethane, pigmented resin, and acrylic markers to fill, paint, and draw. (She often reused her single pattern to create different portraits and create her family resemblance.) Even at this stage, she gave up some control. She worked in a hollow of mold, first drawing what would be the top visible layer of a portrait of each inch thickness, then the bottom layer, so the marks and colors that came before. I couldn’t always see. Like Georg Baselitz’s inverted paintings, it was a voluntary constraint to prove disoriented to both the artist and the viewer.

Apson called them “blind paintings,” according to Benevent. Benevent was so practical in manufacturing that he regularly wore hazmat suits and poured urethane and resin. “She couldn’t wait to see what they looked like,” he said. Subotnick compared the entire process to a “phone” game. In this game you can scramble messages on all relays. Overall, she said it is an example of “controlled chaos.”

When he first saw the portrait about a year ago, Sbotonic said that Apson was “really obsessed with something-she reached the point of the process they felt they were working on.” I said that I was able to do it.

In the previous series, Subotnick added: “She will find some new experimental methods and use them as much as possible. And once she solves the mystery of how to make something from these materials, she will move on.” But in vain The curator suggested that the Germans were not so easy to learn. “This time she found a sweet spot that was still exciting.”

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