C Magazine

Karen Asher: Class

Plug In ICA, Winnipeg

April 27 – June 30, 2019

To achieve harmony in bad taste is the height of elegance. —Jean Genet, The Thief’s Journal (1949)

Karen Asher’s (2015), a photo from her 2016 exhibition at Ace Art artist-run centre in Winnipeg, features a topless model whose entire head is obscured by a duvet, which they hold in place with their arms stretched overhead. The image is at once raw and composed, private and performative, concealed and exposed, and it is in Asher’s ability to navigate the tension represents the artist’s first foray into video and installation. The gallery space has been drastically altered to reflect a composite conjuration of clubs and bars that played host to Asher’s formative years; pleather furniture, checkered linoleum, disco balls and a neon sign contribute to this elaborate reconstruction, materializing as equal parts gauche and glam. Embracing a self-aware engagement with the gaudy, Asher explores the metrics of good and bad taste, and examines the relationship between class and aesthetics, particularly how these significations have been disrupted by the tendency of subcultures to re-author their own semiotics of style. demonstrates and wields this capacity, harnessing the material trappings of tastelessness to great effect, and demonstrating through them the capacity of style as a vehicle of subversion.

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