Sep 12 - Dec 09
by Glen Helfand
In Karen Kilimnik’s playbook, practice is never a means to achieve perfection. Since the late 1980s, she has trafficked in DIY media channeling by processing pervasive images of supermodels and movie stars and reports of their nightlife carnage, creating self-consciously rough drawings, knowingly bad paintings, and scatter art, an early ’90s sculptural genre all her own. Her work concerns various ideas of dispersal, and she applies various media to illuminate her subjects. At its best, which usually involves dramatic salon-style hangings, her work implies a private universe fueled by a romance of aspiration, as the pieces are invariably funky emulations of the environs for her source material. Dance Rehearsal focuses on Kilimnik’s enduring interest in the theatricality of ballet, and thematic tensions arise from her off-kilter articulations applied to a field steeped in maniacal quests for perfection. (Think Black Swan, a film that will be screened here as part of a related ballet film series.) The stars and the reference points skew more Balanchine than Bausch.
Little of that tension, however, is communicated by this modest selection of works, which are stretched way too thinly throughout the roomy Mills College Art Museum, which,
ironically, retains some semblance of its origins as a ballroom. While two videos of Kilimnik’s choreography are presented in constructed screening rooms—a stately gazebo and a room draped with a regal blue and gold curtain—poor staging swallows their sense of theatrical grandeur, however handmade. Installed with generous room between them, the paintings and drawings seem forlorn. The one scatter sculpture, Paris Opera Rats (1992), feels tattered and stranded. In this setting, they offer little convincing evidence of Kilimnik’s intentionality or achievement; Dance Rehearsal is more a rehearsal of a show than a full production.