EXIT THROUGH THE POP-UP

Canadian Art - - Spotlight - By Randi Bergman by Randi Bergman

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

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