Magazine article Artforum International

Kaari Upson: Hammer Museum

Magazine article Artforum International

Kaari Upson: Hammer Museum

Article excerpt

Remember the scene in David Fincher's 1995 neo-noir Seven when detectives, played by Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, scavenge the hermetically sealed apartment of Kevin Spacey's serial killer "John Doe"? The scariest moment arrives not when the two dicks find a neon cross over the bed, nor endless emptied pill bottles, nor even the gruesome severed hands of a victim, but when they uncover hundreds of notebooks, densely filled with psychotic scholarship. It's the kind of image that finds lineage from the revelation of Norman Bates's skeletal mother to the wall of stolen family photos in the Robin Williams pedophilia vehicle One Hour Photo (2002), and, most recently, in an exhibition by Kaari Upson in the Hammer Museum's otherwise sterile lobby.

Whether Upson is an actual psycho or just playing make-believe remains to be seen, but her dense, wall- and floor-filling installation of labor-intensive, photorealistic drawings and diagrams, performance videos, oil paintings, blown-up-photos-of-little-paintings-copied-from-photographs, and file boxes and folders is genuinely unsettling--even if self-consciously so. Recalling both Sophie Calle and Paul McCarthy, the artist is the center of an ongoing drama (The Larry Project, 2005-) involving a real-life Ken-doll-cum-playboy. The artist's investigation of "Larry," made manifest in the fruits of a detective-style fact-finding mission (a video of Larry's house on fire; artless assessor's photos of the resulting ruins; a box containing files labeled "Yoga and Diet," "Playboy Mansion," "The Parties") as well as those yielded through outright stalking and trespassing (two other files, pointedly labeled "His Crimes" and "My Crimes"), elevates a string of ethical and legal concerns regarding privacy and physical and psychological well-being. How far should an artist investigate--or violate--a subject for the sake of "performance"? …

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