EXIT THROUGH THE POP-UP
In 2014, artist Karen Kraven mounted a series of hats atop salt blocks as part of her solo exhibition, “Razzle Dazzle Sis Boom Bah,” at Montreal’s Darling Foundry. The hats were arresting in their vibrancy, yet strange in their off-kilter unwearability. They mimicked the ostentatious, aesthetic rituals of upper-crust horse races like the Kentucky Derby, where more is always more and class is on lavish parade. The awkwardness of Kraven’s hats—“it was important that it looks like an amateur made them,” she says—deconstruct this relationship among fashion, money and the art of peacocking.
Fashion has always been a sign of the times: however exaggerated in its luxury, it promises a degree of function. Art, less obviously so. But both are in the curious business of selling sometimes intangible, often non-essential goods, and this is more of an impulse, or need, than you might think. Preceding and during the Second World War, for instance, Europe’s creative communities took up Surrealism’s blurring of harsh realities and beautification of the banal. The interdisciplinary movement spawned Dalí paintings, Schiaparelli dresses, Cocteau films and, perhaps most notably, became one of the first aesthetic movements to knowingly identify and express a mass psyche.
The term “Consumption Art” might be used to define post-pop artwork that has focused on fashion in one way or another since the excesses of the 1980s. Barbara Kruger’s I shop therefore I am (1990), a product of the media-critical Pictures Generation but also a product itself (the image unironically appears on postcards, T-shirts and more to this day), provides enough connective tissue to form this entire analysis. It leads us to the last great era of the status sell: the 2000s. Artist Chloe Wise rose to stardom in 2014 with her take on early-2000s designer bags, remade into urethane bread sculptures stamped with Moschino, Chanel and Prada logos.
“For me, the early 2000s seemed to be a time when assimilation was at the forefront of what constituted a popular purchase,” says Wise. “That was the time in my life where I was attending Bat Mitzvahs, a coming-of-age moment for a young Jewess, and those ‘It’ bags were at their peak of popularity, with celebrities like Paris Hilton toting them. My work is