New York

Karen Kilimnik

303 Gallery

Karen Kilimnik has, since the mid-1980s, been hailed by some for her ability to channel decadence of various degrees—from generic goth to coked-up waifdom à la Kate Moss—with the unabashed, if slightly off-kilter, delight of a true enthusiast. Others locate their love for her work at what would seem the opposite pole, positing that the artist’s Romantic obsessions are served up with a deft critical turn, and that the pleasure principle behind them lies precisely in their maker’s techniques of deflation. Personally, I tend to think of Kilimnik’s subject matter the way I do the tortoise famously bejeweled by Duc Jean Floressas des Esseintes in J. K. Huysmans’s novel À Rebours (Against Nature) (1884). As devotees know, des Esseintes’s turtle dies from internal damage caused by the sheer weight of the expensive baubles with which the archetypal nineteenth-century aesthete encrusts

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