It is difficult to find the words to describe the particular effect of a fifteen-foot high golden Venetian bust with true-to-life exposed female breasts based on the artist’s own body, military shoulder epaulettes, and the head of a gorilla draped in silver shwag necklaces that say “BE” and “ART:” arresting, if nothing else. Words, in fact, are of a certain fascination for Laura Kimpton, whose show, “If Words Could Speak,” will be at HG Contemporary in Chelsea, New York until May 26th. You can’t miss it, just look for the giant bust described above looming on the sidewalk outside the gallery on 23rd street.
Upon entering, one is greeted by multiple large-scale works in a relatively small space, the first being a five-foot high rainbow aluminum sculpture depicting in all capital serif font, “LOVE,” with small, repeating cutouts in the aluminum in the shape of a bird in flight (I found out later that the sculpture actually contains lights and illuminates, giving off a marvelous rainbow glow). To the left of this is a similar piece in unpainted aluminum in the shape of the hashtag symbol. Along the walls surrounding these pieces hang four enormous, glossy collages, two of which incorporate large metal block letters arranged seemingly willy-nilly, but upon closer inspection reveal words in the mess. An American flag composed of repeated million-dollar bills for stripes and a video monitor of another word sculpture, “EGO,” burning peacefully at Burning Man like the Christmas fireplace channel in place of the square containing 50 stars, the flag itself framed by bee-bee guns and whippets that resemble bullets (a repeated motif), is a mesmerizing piece of ingenuity and mayhem.
“All my art is about how we’re really animals.” Laura Kimpton
My experience of the show was actually quite pertinent to the content of it: a whirlwind. I happened by the gallery before the official opening and was incidentally invited to interview the artist herself, who told me right off the bat, “All my art is about how we’re really animals.” She described to me the event that I would later witness at the opening that night: a 4-foot high plaster word sculpture spelling “EGO,” similar to the one in flames, golden and full of found trophy-toppers (winged figures, athletes, etc.) as well as religious icons (Virgins Mary statuettes, skulls) would be sledgehammered to bits by herself and members of the gallery audience, then replaced by a permanent, smaller version of the sculpture made from actual trophies, enshrined atop the remaining detritus. During the climactic moment, I noticed that the hammer was passed mostly to women, who laid into “EGO” with relish. “All women are artists, whether they think so or not,” Laura told me.
The destruction took place in a room with two standout pieces that are self-portraits of the artist either masked or dressed as a bird surrounded by glossy, elaborate classical frames. Like all the pieces on display, they danced on the border between sculpture and painting, collage and photograph, object and picture, and delightfully confuse the concept of ego. Kimpton’s work is blatant and accessible, yet full of unexpected complexities and details. “My collages are my favorite,” she told me. Mine too.
527 W 23rd St New York NY 10011
Photographed by John Tilley. All Art work © Laura Kimpton.