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Deborah Kass

Deborah Kass (b. 1952, San Antonio, TX) is a multidisciplinary artist examining the interactions of politics, pop culture, art history, and identity within a Pop art sensibility. Interested in ideas of appropriation and duplication, Kass works in a variety of media, including painting, prints, neon, sculpture, and installation. The artist blends together gender issues, feminism, and a keen sense of humor. Her art is geared to challenge contemporary gender norms and male-centric social structures. Throughout her career, the artist has championed feminist agendas within the art world and beyond.

Born in San Antonio, TX, Kass received her BFA in Painting at Carnegie Mellon University, and studied at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program and the Art Students League of New York. Her first major series, “Art History Paintings,” produced in the late 1980s, Kass commandeered celebrated post-war visual motifs and rerouted them to express a feminist narrative. The artist rerouted the works of famous male pop artists such as Andy Warhol or Jackson Pollock and infiltrated them with her own feminist identity. With this series, Kass established her trademark appropriation style.

In the 1990s, she produced “The Warhol Project,” a series made up of interpretations of a wide range of Warhol’s most iconic work. This includes re-creations of Warhol’s self-portraits using her own face and paintings of celebrities for which she used Barbara Streisand or other female members of the art world as substitutes for Jackie Kennedy Onassis, for example. In this way, Kass shifted the work’s tone away from connotations of female victimhood and tragedy with which Warhol’s celebrity muses were often associated.

“Feel Good Paintings for Feel Bad Times” further developed her artistic vocabulary, using canonical formats of leading post-war artists such as Ed Ruscha, Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly, Jackson Pollock, and Andy Warhol. She also began incorporating text, pulling from the lyrics of Broadway musicals, Yiddish phrases, film dialogue, and popular music.

Kass’s work is in numerous prominent museum collections, including the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY; Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University, CA; Cincinnati Museum, OH; Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, MA; Jewish Museum, NY; La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, CA; Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, NY; Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA; Museum of Fine Art, Boston, MA; Museum of Fine Art, St. Petersburg, FL; Museum of Modern Art, NY;  National Portrait Gallery, DC; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC; New Museum, New York, NY; New Orleans Museum, LA; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY; Weatherspoon Museum, NC and the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY.

The Neuberger Museum of Art and the Jewish Museum of New York have both included Kass in several solo and group exhibitions, the latest of which were in 2016 and 2018, respectively. In 2012, The Andy Warhol Museum held “Deborah Kass: Before and Happily Ever After, a Mid-Career Retrospective.”

Kass’ work has been included in solo and group exhibitions worldwide at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (2019), McNay Art Museum (2019), Brooklyn Museum (2018), New Orleans Museum of Art (2017), Whitney Museum of American Art (2016), Bronx Museum (2016), Orlando Museum of Art (2016), Smithsonian Institution (2015), National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland (2015), Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg (2015), Metropolitan Museum of Art (2012), Jewish Museum Vienna, Austria (2012), Gyeongnam Art Museum, Changwon City, South Korea (2012), Glasgow Museums Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, Scotland (2009), Cobra Museum of Modern Art, Amstelveen, Netherlands (2008) and the Jewish Museum Berlin, (2008).

Mary Ryan Gallery has included Kass’ work in group exhibitions and published a silkscreen entitled Gold Barbra in 2013.

In 2012 Deborah Kass: Before and Happily Ever After Kass, a major monograph by Eric Shiner and with contributions by Robert Storr and Griselda Pollock, was published to accompany her survey at the Warhol Museum.
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