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b. 1955, USA

Karen Kilimnik Biography

Karen Kilimnik draws parallel references between historic works from the 16th century and contemporary consumer culture. She unearths romantic traditions, creating imaginative paintings, drawings, photographs and installations that span interests as diverse as animals, childhood, ballet, fashion, witchcraft, famous films, literature, landscape and dreams.

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Kilimnik is known to be a recluse. Instead of manoeuvring the social pressures that come with life in a large city, she chooses to remain in her hometown of Philadelphia, where she completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1984 at Temple University.

While Kilimnik works across a variety of media, her style does not remain singular. Through photography she is known to explore the natural world, focusing on landscapes and animals. Her traditional oil paintings, on the other hand, reflect her interest in the past. These paintings are often assemblages of loose brushstrokes and feature uncanny portraits of iconic figures, cut out from a scene in a film or appropriated from a famous painting. 

Kilimnik is also known to produce oil landscape paintings or set-ups of architectural interiors such as Leonardo Da Vinci's Living Room, Amboise 1500 (2014). A mise-en-scène approach is used in her assemblage sculpture as well, where she brings seemingly random items from popular culture together in one space. These installations often mimic stately homes or palatial architecture. Part of the 1990s ‘scatter movement’, the pieces of detritus included in these installations—photocopies, pieces of fabric, drawings, furniture and mirrors—brought Kilimnik fame in the 1980s and 1990s.  

Kilimnik's work is known for its whimsical approach. However, this approach is mixed with sharp and relevant themes including feminism, psychology and identity. Blurring glamour and kitsch, and bordering on the unsettling, Kilimnik’s works have been the subject of numerous solo shows in countries such as France and Ireland, and cities such as Philadelphia, Zurich, London and New York. 

Jessica Douglas | Ocula | 2017

Karen Kilimnik Featured Artworks

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Rapunzel, 1998 (For Parkett 52) by Karen Kilimnik contemporary artwork
Karen Kilimnik Rapunzel, 1998 (For Parkett 52), 1998 Spindle of gold thread (hair) on bed of moss (thread and moss are separately packaged to be assembled by the collector), Plexiglas box
10.5 x 25.1 x 20.1 cm
Parkett Enquire about this work
Heathers by Karen Kilimnik contemporary artwork
Karen Kilimnik Heathers, 1992–1993 Single-channel video; 6 hour DVD
Sprüth Magers Enquire about this work
Untitled by Karen Kilimnik contemporary artwork
Karen Kilimnik Untitled, 2019 Acrylic and plastic crystals on unstretched canvas
76.2 x 76.2 cm
Sprüth Magers Enquire about this work
Untitled by Karen Kilimnik contemporary artwork
Karen Kilimnik Untitled, 2019 Acrylic on unstreched canvas
130.8 x 151.1 cm
Sprüth Magers Enquire about this work
Cinderella at Rapunzel's castle in her snowy cloud outfit by Karen Kilimnik contemporary artwork
Karen Kilimnik Cinderella at Rapunzel's castle in her snowy cloud outfit, 2009 Water soluble oil colour on canvas
61 x 40.6 cm
Sprüth Magers Enquire about this work
tiny leaping for joy by Karen Kilimnik contemporary artwork
Karen Kilimnik tiny leaping for joy, 2013 Water soluble oil colour on canvas
51.4 x 61.3 cm
Sprüth Magers Enquire about this work
spitfire + messerschmidts hedgerow country, France Worldwar II, in color! by Karen Kilimnik contemporary artwork
Karen Kilimnik spitfire + messerschmidts hedgerow country, France Worldwar II, in color!, 2013 Water soluble oil colour on canvas
40.6 x 50.8 cm
Not for sale
Sprüth Magers
hedgerows in england - wild + neat by Karen Kilimnik contemporary artwork
Karen Kilimnik hedgerows in england - wild + neat, 2014 Water soluble oil color on canvas
27.9 x 35.6 cm
Almine Rech Enquire about this work

Karen Kilimnik Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, (SELF) PORTRAITS at Parkett, Zurich
Open Now
22 February–18 July 2020 Group Exhibition (SELF) PORTRAITS Parkett, Zurich Exhibition Space
Contemporary art exhibition, Karen Kilimnik, Karen Kilimnik at Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles
Closed
12 September–26 October 2019 Karen Kilimnik Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles
Contemporary art exhibition, Karen Kilimnik, Karen Kilimnik at Sprüth Magers, London
Closed
13 April–26 May 2018 Karen Kilimnik Sprüth Magers, London

Karen Kilimnik Represented By

Karen Kilimnik In Related Press

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Private Territories: Room and House Work Related Press Private Territories: Room and House Work 2 March 2017, The Quietus

In The Poetics of Space, first translated into English in 1964, Gaston Bachelard wrote: 'a house that has been experienced is not an inert box. Inhabited space transcends geometrical space.' This seminal phenomenological study investigates the significance of intimate spaces which govern our dreams and emotions. Bachelard scrutinises the rooms...

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The two Frieze fairs in London: One for billionaires, one for up-and-coming art Related Press The two Frieze fairs in London: One for billionaires, one for up-and-coming art 10 October 2016, Whitewall Magazine

In same the week as the two Frieze fairs are taking place, no fewer than three separate French galleries launch in London. Almine Rech, who already owns galleries in Paris, Brussels and London, has opened her second, large space (500 square-meters) in the British capital. “Collectors here are more active than in Paris,” she commented....

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Unmissable highlights at Frieze London and Frieze Masters 2016 Related Press Unmissable highlights at Frieze London and Frieze Masters 2016 8 October 2016, The Telegraph

It may be devoted to the very latest in contemporary art, but there’s also more than a whiff of nostalgia at this year’s Frieze London which breaks new ground by devoting an entire section to the Nineties – a time which still seems really quite recent to some of us. Channelling the  collegiate spirit of an era when artists...

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Frieze's Abby Bangser on the 2016 edition of the London fairs Related Press Frieze's Abby Bangser on the 2016 edition of the London fairs 6 October 2016, Whitewall

Joining Frieze in January 2015 as the Artistic Director for the Americas and Asia, Abby Bangser has brought over 10 years of experience in the art industry (at institutions like the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in California) to assist in the global success of the fairs, particularly with...

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