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Pop Stars! Popular Culture and Contemporary Art

Showing at 21c Louisville On display from June 2017 - April 2018
  • Nick Cave (American) Hustle Coat, 2014 Mixed media

  • R. Luke DuBois (American) (Pop) Icon: Britney, 2010 Video, custom wood frame, screen with player, speakers, running time 60:00 minutes

  • Leonce Raphael Agbodgelou (Beninian) Untitled (Musclemen series), 2012 Chromogenic print

About the Exhibition

Superheroes and celebrities, totems and toys: the imagery of manufactured fantasy is reframed in the visual language of historical iconography in this multi-media exploration of popular culture a decade and a half into the 21st century. With unprecedented access to an audience of one’s own, we find affirmation onscreen, and venerate fame as a final destination. As the real and the virtual increasingly collide, boundaries between art and media further blur, inspiring new mythologies realized in new materials: stars of stage, screen, and sport are re-envisioned, offering insight into how desire shapes identity. Appropriating images and practices from commerce, science, politics, religion, sports, and technology, these artists illuminate recent shifts in how culture is being created and consumed.

The legacy of late 20th century Pop Art is evident throughout the exhibition: Andy Warhol’s style and subject matter in particular echo in paintings by Mickalene Thomas, Lisa Alonzo, Marco Grassi, Bruno Peinado, and Ryan McGinness; in the photography of Hank Willis Thomas, David Scheinmann, Adriana Duque, and Matthew Brandt; and in multi-media works by T.J. Wilcox, Alexandre Mazza, and R. Luke DuBois, among others. This broad spectrum of artworks investigating celebrity, commerce, sports, and the media suggests an evolving definition of Pop. In the 1960s, says philosopher Arthur Danto, “Pop art was among other things an effort to overcome the division between fine and vernacular art, between the exalted and the coarse, between high and low.” Pop Stars! demonstrates the dominance of the popular as today’s ubiquitous culture. Culling from the canon of art history, mining the mass media, scouring the streets and screens where we live and dream now, these artists, alongside, Titus Kaphar, Brian Paumier, Robert Wilson, Marco Veronese, Sanford Biggers and others, enshrine the everyday, and intertwine past and present in transformative new intersections of art and life.