Kaari Upson

Life Drawings

Moving between drawing, painting, sculpture and video, the work of Los Angeles-based artist Kaari Upson challenges the notion that identities are autonomous and forges a darkly thrilling taxonomy of selfhood in the process.

By Laura Bannister

When you exit the thrilling, hyperkinetic mess that is Manhattan, with its irate, horn-tooting drivers and protuberant-eyed tourists and money men in pressed suits, when you step inside the elevator of the New Museum on Bowery, and press the button for level three, and when the doors open to a big white room full of Kaari Upson’s drawings, the first thing you’ll do – if you’re anything like me – is take a huge, grateful sigh and suck it all in.

Good Thing You Are Not Alone is Upson’s first show at a New York museum. It’s worth the wait. The first of three rooms includes eight enormous, juicy, complicated, unframed drawings, their corners peppered with staple holes. Each is a dense hybrid of mind-map, diary entry and half-finished sketch, equal parts silly and serious. (When I checked my iPhone notes post-show, I’d referred to the works on paper as “glorious clusterfucks”.)

Some of these graphite recordings were begun eight years ago – Upson knows this because she’s discovered old photos of her studio, where early fragments appear in the background. All of them are roughly themed, and have been used as sounding boards for other works. They are places to collect and arrange information in a non-hierarchical manner, obsessive sites of writing and overwriting (sometimes upside down), of purposeful and accidental overlap. They contain drawings-within-drawings of cups and teeth and eyes; one includes a puckered, cartoonish ring with the caption ANGELINA JOLIE’S MOUTH. On their lower halves, there are thousands.. Subscribe to read this article in full

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