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Christopher Hart Chambers



Kaari Upson rummaged through a house in Los Angeles that was devastated by fire. The personal effects and vestiges of the lives led there were the fodder for this exhibition and her envisaged protagonist, “Larry.” Larry likes smut, and dreams of visiting the renowned pornographer and publisher Hugh Hefner’s legendary Playboy Mansion.” The artist fabricated life-size, transgender effigies complete with cast sex organs.


KAARI UPSON, I am bound to have some anxiety about this so please if I say stop, don’t stop (2009). Installation view at Maccarone, New York. Courtesy the artist and Maccarone, New York. Photo: © Mark-Woods.com.


They are made of charcoal and wax — black and burnt looking. She then used the figures like giant crayons: scribbling, smudging and smashing blurred and smoky, adumbrated memories on the raw walls. The crumbled remains of the broken bodies

lay strewn about the floor, the remains of a violent fit of art making. But, there were

also elegantly presented panels of crepuscular hazes suggestive of landscapes, and a wall hung salon style with unframed lewd snapshots that were recovered from the

ashes and enlarged, then prettily reworked with pastels and charcoal; she’s co-opted

someone else’s ghosts and made them into her own fictive necrophilic tableau.

And there was The Grotto (2008-2009). Faux boulders resembling oversized charcoal

briquettes were stacked floor to ceiling in the “South Gallery,” forming a round cave. No doubt Mr. Heffner’s grotto full of bimbos should burn down like “Larry’s” house. Votive candles were placed here and there, and several salacious video projections inside could be seen by peering through small gaps in the structure like a Peeping Tom. In fact, the entire exhibition derives from peeking into some stranger’s abandoned, dirty little secrets.


KAARI UPSON, The Grotto, 2008-9. Mixed media, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist and Maccarone, New York. Photo: © Mark-Woods.com


Even in her fury, Ms. Upson has a lovely touch. If you can get past her feminist rage regarding the objectification of womanhood and the brutalized transgender carcasses and all the fire and brimstone, the exhibition actually contained several attractive artworks.


Flash Art 271  MARCH - APRIL 2010

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