Kaari Upson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Kaari Upson (born 1972) is an artist, who lives and works in Los Angeles. The majority of Upson’s career has been devoted to a single series titled The Larry Project – paintings, installations, performances, and films inspired by a collection of one man's personal items she found in 2003. The Larry Project was exhibited at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles in 2008, as part of their program Hammer Projects.[1] Her work resides in the public collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston[2][3] and is known for exploring themes of psychoanalysis, obsession, memory, and the body.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Upson was born in San Bernardino, CA, in 1972. She attended California Institute of Arts as an undergraduate in 2003. She received her BFA in 2004 and her MFA in 2007. She began The Larry Project as a student, and exhibited a portion of the work as her MFA thesis.[5]

The Larry Project[edit]

In 2003, after trespassing onto an abandoned property across the street from her parents' home in San Bernardino, Upson discovered boxes of ephemera: letters, legal documents, diaries, photographs, all belonging to one man who she later dubbed 'Larry.'[6][7][5][8][9] She kept the boxes for a year, unsure of what to do with them, but, in 2004, the house mysteriously burnt down, and she decided to begin tracing the life of 'Larry' through her artwork.[5]

For the next seven years, she produced an ongoing body of work, The Larry Project, creating a narrative through the faulty memory of the documents and her own fantasies. The work exists in a variety of mediums: drawing, sculpture, video, and performance.[7] She discovered that 'Larry' styled himself after Hugh Hefner and partied at the Playboy Mansion; he also was involved in a few different self-help programs, including Jungian analysis, chakra cleansing, Gestalt Therapy, and Erhard Seminars Training.[8][10] His hyper-masculine "Ladies' Man" persona became a site of exploration for Upson's own performances of gender, power, and desire.[7]

In 2008, Upson made a life-size doll version of 'Larry,' that she enacted different scenes with, switching roles as his daughter, mother, and sexual partner.[9][5] In 2008, Upson also made "The Grotto," a fiberglass replica of the infamous cave-like swimming pool at the Playboy Mansion.[6] Inside the sculpture, Upson projected videos of herself, wearing silicon prostheses of breasts and genitalia, straddling the 'Larry' doll.[5] In 2009, Upson cast the 'Larry' doll into charcoal, and used the form to make drawings against the gallery wall, slowly destroying the charcoal form in the process.[11] In 2011, Upson cast architectural copies of 'Larry's' former house into soft pink latex, as well as other objects, like a chandelier and an iron gate.[5] In "Mirrored Staircase Inversion (San Bernadino)" (2011), Upson went back to the site of the original house, which was now an empty dirt lot. There, she dug into the ground an inverted replica of the twin staircases that had led into 'Larry's' bedroom, and cast the giant hole in latex, creating a skin of the non-existent house.[5][11] Themes of twinning, mirror images, and negative copies emerge throughout the project, as Upson drew on the pervasive fantasy of the twin Playboy Bunnies and the discovery of her own reflection in a complete stranger.[10] [7][6]


Solo exhibitions[3][edit]

  • 2007: Hammer Projects, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA[1][9]
  • 2009: I am bound to have some anxiety about this so please if I say stop, don't stop, Maccarone, New York, NY[4]
  • 2011:
    • Kaari Upson, Overduin and Kite, Los Angeles, CA
    • Statements, Art 42, Basel, Switzerland
  • 2012: Baby, Please Come home, Massimo De Carlo, London, Italy
  • 2013: Sleep with the Key, Massimo De Carlo, Milan, Italy
  • 2014
    • Kaari Upson, Ramiken Crucible, New York, NY
    • Hole, Massimo De Carlo, London, UK
  • 2017
    • Good thing you are not alone, New Museum New York, NY

Selected group exhibitions[3][edit]

  • 2009:
    • Nine Lives, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA[6]
    • Chinese Box, Overduin and Kite, Los Angeles, CA
    • Berlin-Los Angeles: A Tale of Two (Other) Cities, Massimo de Carlo, Milan, Italy
  • 2010
    • How Soon Now, Rubell Family Collection, Miami FL
    • One on One, SITE Santa Fe, Santa Fe, NM
  • 2011:
    • OH!, Galerie Patrick Sequin, Paris, France
    • American Exuberance, Rubell Family Collection, Miami, FL
    • George Herms: Xenophilia (Love of the Unknown), MOCA Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles, CA
  • 2012: The Residue of Memory, Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, CO
  • 2013
    • Transforming the Known: Works from the Bert Kreuk Collection, Gemeentemuseum den Haag, The Hague, Netherlands
    • Test Platter, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
    • CULM, Night Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
    • A Selection of Resent Acquisitions, Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA
  • 2014
    • The Los Angeles Project, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China
    • Golden State, MOCA Tucson, Tucson, AZ
    • Maximalism, Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin, Germany
    • Procession, CAPC Musèe D'Art Contemporain, Bordeaux, France
  • 2015
    • New Skin, Aïshti Foundation, Beirut, Lebanon
    • Panoramas, The High Line, New York, NY
    • Second Chances, Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, CO
    • Sleepless: The Bed in History and Contemporary Art, 21er Haus, Vienna, Austria
    • Revolution In the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Women 1947-2016, Hauser Wirth & Schimmel, Los Angeles, CA


  1. ^ a b Subotnick, Ali. "Hammer Projects: Kaari Upson". Hammer Museum. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
  2. ^ "Collection: Kaari Upson". The Museum of Contemporary Art. Retrieved 23 June 2016.
  3. ^ a b c "Kaari Upson". Massimo De Carlo. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  4. ^ a b Wilson, Michael (February 2010). "Kaari Upson". Artforum. Retrieved 23 June 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Griffin, Jonathan (March 2012). "Life Study". Frieze Magazine (145). Retrieved 15 June 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d Subotnick, Ali (25 February 2009). Nine Lives: Visionary Artists from L.A. Hammer Museum. pp. 78–90. ISBN 978-0943739366.
  7. ^ a b c d Upson, Kaari (28 April 2015). Marta, Karen (ed.). Kaari Upson: The House. UCCA/Keonig Books. ISBN 978-3863356248.
  8. ^ a b Mizota, Sharon (8 March 2009). "L.A.'s Artist Iconoclasts". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 23 June 2016.
  9. ^ a b c Holte, Michael Ned Holte (February 2008). "Kaari Upson". Artforum. Retrieved 23 June 2016.
  10. ^ a b Campagnola, Sonia (2009). "Larry's House". Mousse Magazine (21). Retrieved 15 June 2016.
  11. ^ a b Soto, Paul (November 2011). "Thinking Inside the Box: Q+A With Kaari Upson". Art In America. Retrieved 15 June 2016.