A Conversation with Kira Nam Greene by Lauren Frances Adams
Painter Kira Nam Greene has been working for over the past 15 years since graduating from School of Visual Arts with her MFA. Her large-scale works on paper and installations amalgamate multiple mediums and content, merging realism and abstraction. Mainstays of her work are an ornamental approach to surface, a deep research practice pointing to specific cultural identities, as well as her own lived experience. Her work exhibits an affinity for saturated colors and a painterly absorption of pop grammar. Born in Seoul, Korea, Greene now lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
I met Kira when I was interim chair of the Painting Department at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) this past fall. Kira comes to Baltimore from New York, where she is a full-time artist. Her role at MICA is the Geneviève McMillan/Reba Stewart Endowed Chair in Painting, which was established in 2006 for an annual visiting female artist faculty in painting, whose work explores perspectives from diverse cultures.
Amy Sherald, Baltimore artist and resident, who recently painted Michelle Obama’s portrait for the National Portrait Gallery collection, shared the McMillan/Stewart position along with Kira Nam Greene this past academic year – contributing as guest critics in student studios as well as giving lectures. This ongoing program is integral to bringing visionary women artists into the MICA community. For Kira, this past year was also an opportunity for her to get to know Baltimore.
Kira and I sat down in early May in Baltimore to talk teaching, artmaking, the historic Pattern and Decoration movement, and Kira’s aesthetic philosophies and personal background. We had just viewed together the Miriam Schapiro mini-survey at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, so art history and ornament were on our minds.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
LFA: I’m curious what your perspective of Baltimore is, now that you’ve spent 9 months coming down from New York every other week.
KNG: The main thing I have noticed is economic and social disparities in the city. It’s pretty striking. I mean, the income difference between the rich and the poor in New York is also very stark, but in Baltimore it seems to be really laid bare. So it is one thing I noticed about the city, from purely superficial impression from my being here 12 times over 9 months.
But it does make me wonder if Baltimore’s geographical and historical position allows political and economic elites to get away with more. Maybe there has never been a true political reckoning stemming from the history of slavery and racism, not that I am saying this is unique to Baltimore. I thought about this when I went to see the collection at the Walters Museum: How this historical legacy of racism in the collection was displayed without any serious dialogs. For example, there are so many Orientalist paintings at the Walters (I noticed the same at Joslyn Museum in Omaha, NE, too), but there are no critical viewpoints presented about these problematic paintings.
This collection is a very distinctive reflection of the founder of the museum, who may have had some retrograde views on race and politics. Maybe it is historically understandable to have had strong attraction to the blatantly sexualized exotic images, the binary opposition of us vs them, given the race and class of William Waters, but with the progression of art history, we need to re-contextualize these paintings in the museum settings.
I also saw an uncritical attitude of collecting in decorative objects in the museum as well. There are objects with excessive ornamentation that were not coming from the enlightened view of the Pattern and Decoration Movement, which gives political agency to cultural viewpoints. But just excessive ornamentation for ornamentation’s sake. Ironically, I could understand where Albert Loos was coming from in Ornament and Crime, even though he represents so many patriarchal viewpoints that many of the feminist P&D artists were critical of.
What about looking at the collection in the Baltimore Museum of Art, do you see any indication that there’s a reflection of the city that makes it a unique museum site?
It’s not as obvious in the Baltimore Museum of Art, but there is also a disportionate representation of one person’s perspective, represented by so many Matisse paintings collected by the Cone sisters. In New York, museums like Frick Museum is a particular example of one person’s taste, like Isabella Gardner Museum or Barnes Collection, and they have been set up that way. But other more general collecting museums like the Metropolitan or Guggenheim embrace broader spectrum. But Baltimore being a smaller city, one person seems to be able to make a huge imprint in the arts scene.
There’s another thing that’s kind of interesting, to be in New York, and then coming to Baltimore. In New York I often feel that I’m one of many artists who are just there. And there are some intermittent dialogs, but not really a strong sense of community. And I sometimes feel like I’m just swimming in this big pool without knowing where I’m going. But here artists all seem know each other, and even tend to work together in different projects. In other words, there seems to be much more sense of community here. I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s the impression I get.
You have lived in New York since 2002. How has your sense of community about being an artist in New York changed over the last 16 years?
That idea also changed because of stages in my career. I went to grad school in New York, and in school you have a very tight community of your peers, your classmates. It lasts about five years while we were all kind of struggling together, trying to show work, to find our own way, and maybe, to find cheap studio spaces together, giving each other encouragements.
There was a strong sense of community in that common struggle. But because New York has gentrified in hyper speed, so many of my classmates moved out of the city — it has become too expensive! As you know, most artists can’t make a living from art sales alone, so you have to work. It used to be that you have a part-time job to have a studio practice and make a crappy living. But that’s not possible any more. Now you have to have three crappy jobs to be able to pay rent for the apartment and the studio–and if you have three jobs, when are you going to go to the studio?
So how do you make it?
I come from a very different background. I had a business background and I worked before, so I have had a separate income from savings and investments. In the beginning, I only lived on these. Now I have combination of different incomes from art and investment, but there was not anyway I could have had a stable studio practice without this cushion, especially for labor intensive work that I make. Even with a full-time studio practice, I only make 10-12 paintings a year in a very good year. So if I had a demanding job, I don’t know how many paintings I would make. I also think time is an investment in developing work. You have to make a lot of paintings to be able to develop and advance ideas. It is very hard when you have three jobs to have a sustained studio practice and to mature as an artist.
How did you come to be an artist?
I originally came to the United States to do a PhD in political economy. After my degree, I didn’t want to be in academia for various reasons, so I worked as a management consultant, but not really enjoying it. As luck would have it, I had a medical leave of absence from an accident, which allowed me to take a painting class at a community college. I always dreamed of being able to paint, but never had a formal training. When I started this class, I went to bed and woke up in the morning thinking about painting even though I was painting just some still lives. Afterward I just had to find a way to become an artist to have a full-time painting life.
Can you talk about what precipitated your upcoming project with the NYC Metropolitan Transit Authority Public Art program and how as a painter you’re thinking about public art?
I don’t know how I got to the final stage but I was invited to submit a final proposal for five subway stations being renovated in the Bronx. MTA installs at least one permanent art piece whenever a station gets renovated as part of their Percent for Art program. At first it was really daunting to come up with ideas because I’ve never done any public artwork. Only large scale work that I have done is a mural at Union College and it did not involve any mosaic tile work.
It was hard to think about it in the beginning. First week, I was very lost. So I did research which is my comfort zone. One thing that my education did affect the way I think about art is probably similar to your approach to art. I do a lot of research. I researched the stations being considered: what kind of community and population they had around the neighborhood.
Kira Nam Greene, By the Patterns, Schaffer Library Learning Commons at Union College, Schenectady, NY (2016)
Did the MTA give you that information and make that part of what they wanted artists to consider?
They do, but not very detailed. They just give you generic ethnic and income breakdowns of the neighborhoods around the stations being considered during the orientation meeting. Based on that, I started asking friends who grew up in the Bronx. My best friend’s husband grew up in the Bronx and is a Puerto Rican activist. He was a great, great resource. We talked about Puerto Rican food, obviously. But we also talked about activism, history of Puerto Rico, different neighborhoods he grew up in, etc. That led me to other readings and sources.
Afterwards I did visual research to find what’s important to different populations in the Bronx because there are a lot of Dominican, West Africans and Chinese immigrants as well as Puerto Ricans in the area. With these researches, I started combining elements that I found interesting. This is kind of how I work anyway when I make paintings. For my current portrait series, I take photos of subjects for the painting as a reference.
During the photoshoot, I ask lots of personal questions; “Where was your mother from? Where did you grow up? And what kind of things did you study?” We also talk about their work and I ask if there are anything important that should be included in the painting. I then expand the enquiry into bigger cultural realm and look for patterns, icons and images with any symbolic meanings relating to my subjects. It is almost an anthropological approach. The subway project was similar in that approach.
I knew I wanted to include some of the food elements because one of the stations being considered is in Hunts Point neighborhood, which is New York City’s wholesale food distribution center, including Fulton Fish Market and Hunts Point Produce Market. So I wanted to include a lot of Puerto Rican and African food and produce as well as my usual Asian motifs. Only difference was working digitally with Photoshop rather than analog painting.
Kira Nam Greene, Barbara at Café Folies-Bergère, oil, flashe, acrylic and xerox transfer on canvas, 50”x50” (2018)
How will you collaborate with these artisans to interpret your designs? What’s your thinking about how to maintain integrity of what your artistic voice is when it’s translated into this other medium, of glass, ceramic, mosaic, etc.?
That’s going to be the most interesting process. MTA gives me the pre-approved list of companies that they have worked with and I choose a vendor based on their bids. The fun part will be working with their artisans to choose colors and materials. That’s the part that I’m really interested in since I already feel a strong timeless connection to the tradition of craft and artisans, especially when I am painting all the intricate patterns. A spiritual kinship to the people who are just toiling, making these intricate things all day long. It’s kind of weird [laughter].
You’ve incorporated some of these historic patterns in the painting, which actually come from the architectural cladding of tile. And now your work is about to be translated back into tile. So that’s an interesting place to be as the artist.
Right. And then how do we translate what I have designed based on tile patterns back into tile mosaics? Do I want to break it down so that it doesn’t look like a tile, or do I want to make it look exactly like a tile? So that’s going to be an interesting discussion with the craftspeople. And that’s what I’m really looking forward to.
I want to shift the conversation into talking about pattern and decoration. That’s how I found your work initially a few years ago, looking for my kindred spirits out in the art world. How did you find meaning through ornament or pattern?
Like a lot of people, I didn’t know about the Pattern and Decoration movement when I started incorporating these patterns into my work. I came to it based on my conceptual thinking about how I wanted to deconstruct my identity in self-portraiture: My identity as a Korean-American who lives in New York. So I started thinking about what kind of cultural aspects I can bring into the picture. In the very beginning, when you start making work as an artist, you don’t really think about the implications of your choices as much. You just go with your instinct.
Around 2004, I was painting female nudes wrapped in fabrics based on many classical paintings but also critical of ‘male gaze,’ but I started thinking about wrapped fabric in more critical way rather than just some art historical conceit. Maybe the fabric can be unwrapped from the figure but also envelope it as the background. And background can be clothes that have some patterns. So it started simply like that. When I started, I was first attracted to patterns that are pretty, especially historical patterns. Eventually I started thinking that these patterns must have meanings in different cultural contexts, which led me to researching the history of patterns. I didn’t find out about the Pattern and Decoration movement until much later when I moved away from the figurative work to still life paintings of food. I only found out about P&D when somebody told me about the Pattern and Decoration movements and reading Ornamentation and Abstraction.
What is that book?
It is a catalog for an exhibition in Germany called Ornamentation and Abstraction. It’s a very academic exhibition, as you can imagine. It is a different take on pattern and decoration, examining a link between what normally motivates abstract paintings, like repetition, focus on certain iconography or shape, and how that has relevance or basis in ornamentation traditions. This exhibition studied the importance of ornament (especially pictorial conception of Philipp Otto Runge’s arabesque) in the emergence and development of abstract art in modernist and contemporary art without examining any P&D artists. The focus is the emergence of the modernism (Matisse, Picasso, Kandinsky, Mondrian, etc.).
Did you look at that exhibition to outline what is perhaps an innate impulse, a spontaneous internal desire regarding beauty, or visual pleasure? Once you start getting into the meat of that research, where you’re making a lot of work that has these pattern things incorporated, questioning ‘how is this chinoiserie different from this chintz?,’ and where did those come from, and in what way? How did that end up on the same bag, or shirt? Did that exhibition do that kind of intellectual and historical work?
The chief curator acknowledges the influences of non-Western cultures (or pejoratively called primitism) and quotes Okwui Enwezor in the importance of “reverse replay,” where non-Western artists re-assimilating what was taken from their own culture to highlight the colonial legacy. And that is typically post-modern and only way non-Western tradition is dealt with in this exhibition.
I want to tie into this conversation the essay by Valerie Jaudon and Joyce Kozloff, Art Hysterical Notions of Progress and Culture (published in Heresies #4, Vol 1, 1978, p. 38-42), which is kind of a feminist response to the Modernist Western singularity in language and visual culture. One of the critiques that could be had of the failures of certain Western art movements in the lack of recognition of the variety of global perspectives — a flawed insistence that Western modes are universal.
These art histories have shut out or facetiously appropriated from different regional specificities, such as craft traditions. Kozloff and Jaudon are specifically looking the prejudiced and hierarchical language that’s been constructed over the past 150 years in the discourse of Western art – to expose marginalization and bias, and in their words, reveal how the “heroic genius has always appeared in the form of a white Western male.”
Yeah. I think it is related in examining why P&D Movement is consistently marginalized. I think partly it was because P&D was very American-centric and short lived, but also in large part, P&D’s root was in feminism. In my opinion, abstract art that is celebrated in exhibitions such as Ornament and Abstraction are attempts at analytical rationalization (or pattern recognition) of exuberance and chaos, or what you might call “feminine” traits of hysteria. Freud has identified “hysteria” and repetition compulsion as underlying impulses of psychoses and “pattern recognition” is a first step toward rationality.
I think P&D artists, based on feminist ideals are the first ones to acknowledge the duality of rationality and hysteria and in repetition instead of viewing it as binary opposition. Binary oppositions of rationality and hysteria is also the basis of other modernist binary oppositions such as high art vs. kitsch, modern vs. primitive, sublime vs. eccentric, etc. Another very recent exhibition that is interesting is called Delirious at Met Breuer. It examines undercurrent of irrationality in postwar art, but this one also does not encompass P&D Movement because an exercise calculated delirium is also pure binary analysis of hysteria and delirium rather than dual embrace.
Did you find when you first started incorporating pattern and ornament into your work and you heard responses to the work and realized that you were engaging in a kind of language that wasn’t acceptable to a lot of ways of thinking about what Western art is supposed to be—such as the New York art world paradigm?
Immediately. It was so interesting because the first comments were always about how decorative and psychedelic my works was.
One of the funniest and worst comments I have heard may be from a good friend whose opinions I respect. He said, “It reminds me of a Chinese food menu” [laughter].
And how did you negotiate that in terms of your Korean-American identity and the layered context you come from?
Well, it immediately makes you question your work when somebody whose eyes you respect says that your painting looks like a graphic design illustration.
And then it makes you wonder: “Do I need to just go even harder in that direction?”
Well [laughter], that did not used to come immediately for me– I guess I should be stronger but when I have a studio visit that ends questioning the whole premise of my enterprise, I do question myself. Also in New York, you are constantly seeing art in the galleries and when your work doesn’t seem to fit in the work that’s being celebrated, you do question yourself, especially in the beginning of your career.
There is a conflicting desire between creating work of your own but also making way in your career as well. It takes me awhile to separate the genuine criticism and implicit biases. Only after some moments of crisis, I start to redouble my convictions on what I am doing, which I think is pretty natural. I am now ever more determined to make my paintings pictorially more complex. It is obviously very important to have strong content with your own voice.
But ultimately it doesn’t matter what you’re painting: whether you’re painting a foot or an animal or anything. Important thing is how you can make the painting work in a complex and complicated way within its own logic and also emotionally relevant. Maybe because I am trying to get over the criticism, especially earlier in my career, about how my paintings were not painterly.
And what does that mean? Can you decode that for me?
I think it meant there were no big marks or thick parts, or there were no loose parts and everything has been so highly controlled and rendered.
I wonder if Ellsworth Kelly ever got that criticism?
Yes, there is some sexist elements in that criticism too. I think if a man made a work like I did with so much control and precision, maybe they would be celebrated for the precision and control.
It’s so precise. How intentional!
Yeah. But when women do it, it is just not painterly [laughter].
I’m so curious what you’re reaction was to say, “Okay, I hear this criticism and therefore I take it on as a challenge to create an image or a picture that obviates this immediate read.” That’s a pretty transgressive response. There are all these wonderful examples of visual culture around us that are not recognized as the true art that it is – ornament being just one of the examples.
So any time I heard those criticisms, I would refer back to other historical examples and say, “Hey, these people obviously were thinking something I was thinking about what I would call a very human desire to create ornament.” And that always made me feel really emboldened and more deeply connected. For you, it’s a catalyst for complicating the picture even more so to sublimate the idea there’s an easy read. To me, it appears your works are becoming even more layered as you consolidate your views about how meaning is created. So you’re working on this portrait series right now and that’s something you started in 2016, right? Is this post-Trump work?
Yes [laughter]. Post-Trump work. Like so many women artists that I know, 2016-17 has been a difficult year. I was trying to find a new way of working and I probably only made two finished paintings. I started and abandoned so many pieces– yes, a transitional period when I was questioning everything. Breakthrough came after I had a studio visit and a great conversation with another artist friend, and this is also why having a community of close trusted artist friends is so important.
My friend came over and I was just complaining, whining about how I can’t make the old paintings anymore because of political and social atmosphere. What’s the point of making these stupid paintings when everything seems on fire? She suggested that I should just start having fun in the studio and seek connection to others by painting all the wonderful women artists that I know and show that the world and community is stronger and better than it seems. It clicked immediately for me. I could have kept going with the food-themed work but I felt like I already explored the ideas and was not finding new meanings, a new way of doing painting with this subject matter. So the idea of series of portraiture came from this conversation, and with time, it keeps changing and evolving.
Do you ever wonder what it would be like to step away from using pattern and repetition, or is it compulsory at this point?
Yes. In 2017, that was the question very much in my mind as well as questioning the subject matter. I made still life paintings without any patterns and I also made purely abstract paintings with patterns and repetition. I thought those abstract paintings were ok, but something was missing. I don’t think I knew how to quite imbue meanings to the painting without the juxtaposition of realism and abstraction. But I also missed painting realistically in terms of studio practice.
That recognition of the pleasure and satisfaction of practicing the process of painting.
I think, of course you can have passion in the abstract, but if you don’t actually enjoy the act — I mean, there’s times when you have to go through some kind of rote mechanics to achieve a specific kind of illusionism, let’s say, but if at the end of the day, you don’t find that ideologically or physically enlightening, or hopefully both, as well as awe inspiring, then what’s the point?
But the other sad thing is then you read about these things in history, a kind of maudlin experience an artist has where they’re just performing their work without a real passion for it. I mean, the effect of a work of art can be yet still somehow divorced from the artist’s emotions.
But don’t you think you can see it? Maybe I’m delusional, but I feel like I can suss out the work that has been done dutifully. Pattern and Decoration is of course political, but realism is also a subversive political act for me, too.
How is that? Because of the time and labor that’s required to create them? And the specificity and intentionality you’re creating in them?
Mm-hmm. Because fundamentally it’s kind of a stupid act. Why take so much time to achieve kind of realistic image that I am striving for when you can just take a photo? Realism is a serious deliberation with the subject and a personal obsession that causes anxiety, which runs counter to the premise that realism is essentially superficial and populist.
Also under current visual culture, realism is counter to technology-based virtual realities and the elimination of the artist’s hand in contemporary art production. I think that is subversive. For me, realism also has an aspect of ontological pursuit in the sense of Plato’s ideals. When I am painting realistically, I am not just trying to copy something exactly I am searching for the patterns and geometry that consist the essence of a thing or being: what makes a human human; contemplation of racial differences in deciding skin tones. These are not just aesthetically decisions but also political decisions and analysis. So realism is a stand that I take even though it is a love/hate relationship.
Because of the physical and mental effort?
Because of the time and the concentration and energy required. Pattern work can truly be meditative because it’s very repetitive.
But in your work, it really is about the two coming together. Your work is not satisfied with the flatness of the pattern or the monumentality of just the figures. It’s about the blend of the two.
Exactly. So there is always kind of push and pull and a constant state of approval and denial. From a very early age, I had a worldview that you should always be on the edge, where you are able to see both sides all the time. And this is how I want my painting to be too, a precarious balancing act all the time. Sometimes it’s kind of hard to achieve that [laughter], so that’s the struggle.
Oh, that’s like chasing gold.
Yes! [laughter] Is that what you look for too?
It’s a compilation of experiences related to being able to see the picture in my mind’s eye. Pulling together this thing that somehow can address this multiplicity of issues in formal concerns, and then that heightened kind of psychic state that you know your body’s in when making that work. If you can fuse all that even in one single day that’s amazing. Some of the best days of my life have been in the studio.
Exactly. For me, it usually takes about two months to finish a painting, and after looking at the same painting for such a long time, it becomes impossible to make any decisions. That’s kind of the worst time in the studio. I think that’s also when I need a studio visit most from the people I trust.
What about teaching and what it means to work with young artists who are facing some of the same dilemmas? You come in every other week to Baltimore where you’re a visiting critic at MICA. Students were invited to see you speak on your work twice, on your philosophies. What kind of perspective has that given you on what is good for artists, and how you see what it must be like for them in their studios doing their work? What is it about specifically watching young artists doing this work in 2018 and facing some of those same cultural realities?
I try to remember what type of studio visits were most helpful to me when I was a student. There is a certain expected routine in studio visits, especially for students. You start by saying how the work seems to relate to other artists’ work.
Because you go visit a lot of galleries and museums in New York every week. So something’s always fresh in your mind that you just saw that’s real to the relationship of art being made out in the world.
Yes, but I question how helpful is that to students? I sometimes feel like it is more showing off on teachers’ part about how much they know. The advices that I valued most when I was a student were the ones about studio practices rather than criticisms on specific pieces.
More generalized approach to an artistic way of thinking about subject matter and formal concerns.
Or even on daily studio practice that you should have in the studio. I try to combine these two impulses.
How are things different than what influences you or me because we’re either generationally different or have a deeper set of life experiences? For instance most of the students who we work with have, for the most part, access to electronic devices and an ability to research and be exposed to a common or public stream of images in a way that, because of our age, we haven’t necessarily been oriented to the same criteria of what our reality was at that age.
I am lucky that most students that sign up to have studio crit with me are more motivated students with strong studio practices. I really enjoy talking to them and they already have strong viewpoints on how to combine the issues of identity or culture into their work. I also ended up talking to many students who have very fluid practices combining paintings, sculptures and digital technologies. We talked about the strategies about how to most effectively manifest these installation ideas. In that regard, students are much savvier about digital technology and so they can move much more fluidly from digital to painting to video to instillation. So there is a continuity that I am not very comfortable in my own practice.
We used to call that conceptual art making [laughter].
Right, now it seems very natural for them. But one thing that I feel like they are lacking is broader cultural understanding and curiosity: interest in movies, books, history, and any type of human activity that is not directly related to your work. I am a culture whore. But all artists are cultural workers regardless of their discipline. I feel that artists have to be Renaissance people to be able to bridge different cultures into cohesive perspective and provide a cultural criticism that is a critical reflection of society in all aspects. I read fiction and nonfiction and I go see theater, dance and music. I go see music from punk rock to opera.
You did bring up GG Allin yesterday, most people don’t know who that is.
Yes, I mentioned his name during one of the visiting artist’s Q&A, and nobody knew who he was except the faculty. I feel like it is symptom that students are ignorant of the origin of broader cultural influences in the work.
You’re sort of talking too about having curiosity about how things came to be the way they are. Some of my deepest studies have been in understanding the way that pattern is culturally viral. A textile pattern might have some core aspect that originates in India in the 12th, 13th, 14th centuries and usually because of trade or military conflict, moves across lands and across time, across peoples, and through the colonial process gets absorbed — similar to how language or cuisine moves.
That’s how you end up with a British person wearing this similar pattern from India from five hundred years ago. And then it ends up in a cornfield in Iowa 100 years later. And it’s morphed slightly, right? And it also happens because of the way technology is shared or cribbed. And to me, that’s really related to how we understand that the world isn’t just ‘is’, but it ‘is’ because of the variety of forces that have come to shape it. And if you can peel away those layers looking at things through a lens of not only colonialism, with trade and war and movement of peoples, but also things related to gender and class.
Yes! One of the best experiences of going to a museum was when I went to see the Met textile show, Interwoven Globe.
Yeah, that was a great one.
It is great to find a validation of your ideas and thoughts as manifested in an exhibition when you didn’t know there was a deep scholarship on the subject. It also helps clear your thinking too. One of the interesting realization that I had with that exhibition was two way nature of influences. It is accepted that 19th century European art was influenced by Asian culture in the guise of Chinoiserie, Japonisme, etc. despite the prevailing colonial perspective. But if you think about it, the other way around was also true.
The way Asian cultures accepted the Western ideas is not that different from Westerners’ accepting Asian culture. It is from its own eccentric perspective and the imported ideas are bent to suit the existing biases and tastes. It is only not colonial perspective because of the lack of political and military power in these countries. This might also relate to your work as you work with the idea of cultural colonialism. You are examining this from a white woman’s perspective, but as an outsider I would like to think I bring up more complicated viewpoint, a view that not everything is a one-way power stream. This is related to what I was talking about being on the edge and also what Okwui Enwezor is talking about in “reverse replay” that I mentioned earlier.
Top Image: Kira Nam Greene, Grab It by the Papaya, Oil, flashe and acrylic ink on canvas, 50 x 50 inches, 2016
Artist Bio: Kira Nam Greene’s work explores female sexuality, desire and control through formal portraits of women and lush still-life paintings of food, surrounded by complex patterns and abstract designs. Imbuing the feminist legacies of Pattern and Decoration Movement with transnational /multicultural patterns, Greene creates colorful paintings that are unique combinations of realism and abstraction, employing diverse media such as oil, acrylic, gouache, watercolor and colored pencil. More recently, Greene’s interest in food has expanded into examining ethical aspects of modern food consumption and the proliferation of advertising imagery on our visual culture in a series of paintings of mass produced and brand name food products. In this latest series, Greene combines typical Pop Art tropes with global motifs, subverting the marketing slogans out of context among highly crafted patterns rooted in older cultural traditions. Born in Seoul, Korea, Greene lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She received her MFA from School of Visual Arts, BFA from San Francisco Art Institute, Ph.D. in Political Science from Stanford University and BA in International Relations from Seoul National University. Greene has shown her work widely at venues such as Accola Griefen Gallery, Jane Lombard Gallery, Kiechel Fine Art, A.I.R. Gallery, Brown University, Salisbury University, Wave Hill, Bronx Museum of Art, Noyes Museum and Sheldon Museum of Art. She is currently McMillan/Stewart Endowed Chair in Painting at Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD. http://kiranamgreene.com/
Author Bio: Lauren Frances Adams teaches painting at MICA. She earned her BFA at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and completed her MFA in 2007 at Carnegie Mellon University. She was born in Snow Hill, North Carolina, on a pig farm. Her work engages political and social histories through iconic images and domestic ornament. She has exhibited at Nymans House National Trust (Sussex, England); The Walters Museum in Baltimore; The Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis, Missouri. Recent projects include Smack Mellon in Brooklyn and a site-specific collaborative exhibition with Stewart Watson at a historic tavern museum in Alexandria, Virginia. She attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and has held residencies at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris and the Sacatar Foundation in Brazil. She is the recipient of a Joan Mitchell Foundation MFA Award, and a 2016 Pollock-Krasner Foundation Award. She is the winner of the 2016 Trawick Prize. Her work has been reviewed in Frieze Magazine, The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, Artslant, and Hyperallergic. Lauren is a founding member of Ortega y Gasset Projects, a project space in New York. www.lfadams.com