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b. 1985, USA

Sam McKinniss Biography

American, Minesota-born painter Sam McKinniss explores popular culture in the contemporary digital age through expressionistic, figurative renderings in oil paint of images gathered from Google.

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McKinniss' range of subject matter is a cornucopia of contemporary popular culture, featuring images of celebrities like Diana Princess of Wales, Whitney Houston, Tyra Banks, Madonna, and Lil' Kim, and films and television series such as Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Catwoman. Generally limiting his subject matter to what has occurred in his lifetime, much of the artist's work is firmly sited in internet culture. The artist describes Google as containing a 'catalogue of pop phenomena' and unabashedly appropriates from this repository. Everyday imagery that we take for granted in Google's near-infinite photographic archive is valued through this artistic, post-modern figurative elevation to the status of iconic art.

McKinniss' artwork has itself become an icon of pop culture since he painted a portrait of internationally acclaimed New Zealand singer Lorde in 2017 for the cover of her second album, Melodrama. Already an acquaintance of McKinniss through mutual friends, the young pop music icon reached out to the artist after visiting his solo show Egyptian Violet (Team (gallery, inc.), 2016) and seeing his gigantic Prince (2016) oil painting.

As McKinniss' nature paintings demonstrate, he paints more than just fame and celebrity, regularly delving into art-historical subject matter. He pays homage to 20th-century illustrators and 19th-century portraitists like Norman Rockwell and Henri Fantin-Latour, looking to Fantin-Latour in particular for inspiration. Producing still-lifes and portraits with titles suffixed by 'after Fantin-Latour,' the artist has also self-effacingly stated 'I wish I could paint like the French hybrid post-Impressionist realist symbolist Henri Fantin-Latour but I cannot, so I just copy his paintings.' Using heightened colour contrasts to create light, shade, and volume, the artist's techniques show a strong influence of these forebears.

McKinniss graduated from The Glasgow School of Art in 2005, later receiving a BFA from the University of Hartford (2007) and an MFA from NYU Steinhardt, New York (2013). He has featured in Art Basel in Miami Beach (2015), Basel (2017), and Hong Kong (2016 and 2018).

Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2019


Sam McKinniss Featured Artworks

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Dolly Parton with kitten by Sam McKinniss contemporary artwork
Sam McKinnissDolly Parton with kitten, 2021Oil on linen
61 x 45.7 cm
Almine Rech Contact Gallery
Tammy Wynette by Sam McKinniss contemporary artwork
Sam McKinnissTammy Wynette, 2021Oil on linen
76.2 x 61 cm
Almine Rech Contact Gallery
Lil Nas X with Friends and Cops by Sam McKinniss contemporary artwork
Sam McKinnissLil Nas X with Friends and Cops, 2021Oil on linen
183 x 124.5 cm
Almine Rech Contact Gallery
Lake McDonald by Sam McKinniss contemporary artwork
Sam McKinnissLake McDonald, 2021Oil and acrylic on linen
244 x 213.5 cm
Almine Rech Contact Gallery
Willie Nelson by Sam McKinniss contemporary artwork
Sam McKinnissWillie Nelson, 2021Oil on linen
40.6 x 30.5 cm
Almine Rech Contact Gallery
Grand Canyon by Sam McKinniss contemporary artwork
Sam McKinnissGrand Canyon, 2021Oil on linen
58.4 x 137.2 cm
Almine Rech Contact Gallery
Shania Twain's Horse 1 by Sam McKinniss contemporary artwork
Sam McKinnissShania Twain's Horse 1, 2021Oil on linen
35.6 x 45.7 cm
Almine Rech Contact Gallery
Lyle Lovett by Sam McKinniss contemporary artwork
Sam McKinnissLyle Lovett, 2021Oil on linen
35.6 x 27.9 cm
Almine Rech Contact Gallery

Sam McKinniss Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Salon de Peinture at Almine Rech, New York
Open Now
29 April–5 June 2021 Group Exhibition Salon de Peinture Almine RechNew York
Contemporary art exhibition, Sam McKinniss, Country Western at Almine Rech, London
Open Now
15 April–22 May 2021 Sam McKinniss Country Western Almine RechLondon
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Painting Someone at Almine Rech, Shanghai
Closed
6 November–26 December 2020 Group Exhibition Painting Someone Almine RechShanghai

Sam McKinniss Represented By

Almine Rech contemporary art gallery in Brussels, Belgium Almine Rech Aspen, Paris, Brussels, London, New York, Shanghai

Sam McKinniss In Ocula Magazine

Sam McKinniss In Related Press

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CLAIM TO FAME Related Press CLAIM TO FAME 3 September 2019, ARTFORUM

ABOUT SAM McKINNISS: He is so out of the ordinary, and so unusually well-equipped to write about himself if he cared to, that writing about him feels presumptuous. And truthfully, most of what's been written about my own work, including by me, has always seemed alien to what I had in mind. How something is made, and why something is made, is a...

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On Monstering: 'My Head Is a Haunted House' at Sadie Coles HQ and 'Dracula’s Wedding' at Rodeo, London—Curated by Charlie Fox Related Press On Monstering: 'My Head Is a Haunted House' at Sadie Coles HQ and 'Dracula’s Wedding' at Rodeo, London—Curated by Charlie Fox 1 July 2019, Mousse Magazine

Disorientingly familiar, the entrance of My Head Is a Haunted House is covered with a Twin Peaks –esque Red Room floor vinyl that grounds whatever happens there in another dimension. But in contrast to David Lynch’s tricks, there are no velvet curtains bordering an outside;1 there is no alternative to rambling through the rooms suffused in...

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Charlie Fox haunts London Related Press Charlie Fox haunts London 1 July 2019, TANK Magazine

Charlie Fox invites you on a tour of the inner workings of his mind with Dracula’s Wedding and My Head is a Haunted House –two simultaneous exhibitions on this summer at Rodeo and Sadie Coles HQ respectively. Though working in different colour schemes, both shows are a compilation of Fox’s favourite artists and their spookiest works, in all...

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Monster Mash-Up: The Art Gallery As Haunted House Related Press Monster Mash-Up: The Art Gallery As Haunted House 29 June 2019, The Quietus

I didn’t get a chance to see My Head Is A Haunted House until about a week and a half after it opened. In this time (and before the opening), I’ve felt like it was omnipresent online. Constant photos of people posing with giant humping soft sculptures, the cover for the accompanying book endlessly whipping through my feed–It’s had a palpable...

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Sam McKinniss In Video & Audio

Sam McKinniss I Want Your Attention Related Video & Audio Sam McKinniss I Want Your Attention 12 June 2018, Louisiana Channel

Meet a rising star on the international art scene – the young Sam McKinniss, who paints portraits inspired by Google images of the juggernauts of popular culture, such as Prince and Michael Jackson. He wants 'big romantic subjects' held within one picture, and he wants your involvement: 'I want your attention – I'm a jealous lover.'

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