Critics’ Picks

View of “Common Ground.”

View of “Common Ground.”


Kendell Carter

451 N Paulina Street
March 14–April 19, 2008

In “Common Ground,” Kendell Carter pushes the conflation of high art, the decorative, and youth culture to its ludicrous if logical conclusion. The resulting display of hip-hop home furnishings and coordinating wall art is both one-liner and a whole lot more, effecting an almost unbearable dialectic between the coolly appealing and the overtly self-critical. Amid graffiti-tag coat racks, a chandelier strung with fat shoelaces, and a casual scattering of metalized milk-crate coffee tables and ottomans, the Tradizzle Chairs, 2006, are a twisted standout. A pair of fussy wingbacks reupholstered in red and black hooded puffy jackets and (fake?) Gucci- and Coach-patterned fabric, they’re as invested in their undeniable hipness as in their expository irony. Desirability lies in the trendiness of their street materials, while the clash of two competing, unrelated styles exposes the ideologies of bling and fashion for their blind encouragement of luxury and disposability. Carter’s playing a risky if enticing game here, making work that wants to be critical of what it itself is. If the young, eminently chic Marie Antoinette were alive today, she might find a perfect perch on one of his chairs, a place to have her cake and eat it, too. And when it came time to chop off her head, there’d be that hoodie, waiting to catch it.