Obsession and excess collide in a feast of color, texture, and light in Karen Kilimnik’s 12thsolo exhibition at 303 Gallery. The installation is set up in the Petersbuger style with groupings of small paintings hung closely together. Sculptures of ready-made models set atop gallery pedestals stand in the center while video’s play on two walls. The space is crowded with photo collages of picturesque country sides, paintings of Victorian manors in the impressionist style, birds, hounds and even pastel seashells. The only action in the gallery is amid the dancers on a screen, performing The Awakening of Flora by Marius Petipa and the video The World at War, which collages black and white movies of WWII.
Kilimnik’s mixed media pieces are situated directly in the center of a rich history of European art and culture. At first glance the work might be read as frivolous or even romanticizing of a past packed with atrocities. Yet take a step back and the work suddenly becomes a criticism of the vacuity of what we value and the excess we hoard.
Ready-made puzzles of historic landmarks stand in the center of the gallery floor, dramatic light reflecting off glitter and rhinestones applied with hot glue. Once gallant ships carrying stolen treasures from around the globe are reduced to a plastic child’s toy adored with rhinestones and glitter. These works point a to the impermanence of value and pointlessness of vanity. The installation remains, titillating the senses and drawing us into the seductive world of wealth and power with the sounds, the lights, and the movement, but the obsession of a culture based on excess and wealth has left a void which feels far too familiar in our current culture.