Deborah Kass


Call Me Barbra: call me an appropriation, a recasting, a challenge to concepts of ethnicity, gender, and patriarchy—call me the work of Deborah Kass. In the “Jewish Jackie” and “My Elvis” series, both 1992, Kass replaces Warhol’s ’60s iconography with Kass’ woman for the ’90s—Barbra Streisand—seeking to subvert the male gaze with the female.

At first the gesture comes off as a humorous attempt to turn the male-dominated world of painting around: a commentary on the medium itself—a recasting of the often camp work of a gay artist into a post-Modern, feminist, queer-theoried, wry bit-o’-revenge. In doing so, Kass brings forth Barbra—the bold, the brash, the beak-nosed, the outsider, the Jew, the “difficult” woman—Streisand. (See Warhol’s Before and After, 1960, and Kass’ Before and Happily Ever After, 1991, a remaking of the Nose Job/Cinderella-if-the-shoe-fits-and-it-better myth.) Here,

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