Between High and Low

by Laura Kikauka

Laura Kikauka’s work acts against the coldly conceptual aesthetic that has reigned over modern and contemporary art since the late 1960’s. It is a return to sentimental forms, nostalgic feelings, and objects imbued with personality. Kikauka provides context and thoughts about her recent show at MKG127 and discusses the inherent value in the “kitsch.”

Laura Kikauka What Box ? exhibition view, 2014
Laura Kikauka What Box ? exhibition view, 2014

In regards to your practice, your work seems like a parallel to what Hal Foster would term as the “archival impulse”. Though the juxtaposition of your idiosyncratic objects, relationships are formed between disparate entities to often re-contextualize them and, in the process, play upon each distinct history. The human interpretation of your works, specifically your last show at MKG 127 Gallery What Box ?, positions the archived object as artifact. Could you expand upon how your work blurs the boundary between kitsch and high-art? As well, how do you feel about the artist ability to (re)define value to objects when they are deemed “art”?

I often find that “hi-art” is Kitsch, especially when considering the definition of evaluating art as in good or poor taste.

I think that the artist’s role is to create work true to oneself & if the artist is lucky to have a descent gallery to deal with it; that is the commercial market and its so called ‘worth’ in the dubious hierarchy.

Laura Kikauka What Box ? exhibition view
Laura Kikauka What Box ? exhibition view

Appropriating found objects (or familiar objects) invokes a history to each component that makes up your work. Subsequently, viewer engagement may vary if an object or artworks resembles something from their past. How do you feel consumer culture has shaped the way in which we interact with art and the artworks you produce?

Consumer culture is omnipresent and there is always sentimentality & nostalgia produced by our discards. In all cultures I often view flea markets & supermarkets as contemporary museums.

Laura Kikauka What Box ? exhibition view
Laura Kikauka What Box ? exhibition view

What Box ? presented a large number of “readymade” 3-dimensional boxes, each contained within itself ornamentation of (seemingly) inexpensive materials. Each box delicately and carefully composed unique and familiar flea-market objects. The mass production of these boxes mirrors the materiality you employed to create them. Could you discuss the re-purposing of materials for art, and how you think contemporary artists (including yourself) are continuing the Duchamp-ian discussion of the ordinary object as art?

In one of Duchamp’s famous piece “Fountain”” where an upside down urinal was signed R.Mutt in 1917 was an iconic defining moment of the “readymades”.

Though some “readymades” are not really ready or made. When you choose from multiple ‘found’ objects’  it become more about the sum of it’s parts,  And when you gather or see objects you see relationships including choices of: color, mood, shapes, the content/message in which they convey or conflict. In this context the challenge is to transform and illuminate the ordinary to extraordinary.

Say it in Silver, mixed media, 2013
Say it in Silver, mixed media, 2013

Your practice infers the activity of the “hoarder”. When you started to produce art, did you find yourself collecting objects as they came, to later incorporate into work? Why/Where do you think that impulse to compulsively collect stems from? Is it a characteristic of our post-modern age where anything and everything is mass produced, bought, and delivered to some one’s convenience at a moment’s notice?

I believe that “hoarders” are people who forget that there is some old pizza / dead cat under their junk.  A “collector” can usually retrieve from their organized archives materials for soulful purposes.

In my case, I enjoy the artistic stimulation and inspiration from the color and abundance of these collections, as much as the color and abundance of being outside in nature!

The Yeast Has Awoken, mixed media, 2014
The Yeast Has Awoken, mixed media, 2014

Finally, could you discuss how your practice operates in the larger contemporary art realm of today? Do you have any artistic influences that you feel parallel your work?

No. Sorry. I don’t really pay attention to how my work operates in the larger contemporary art realm of today, yesterday or tomorrow.

I have many artistic influences starting with great artist friends and family. (I should not embarrass them by listing them here!)

NEW SLOGAN=”Keep them wanting less”

See more and keep updated with Laura’s work by visiting her website.


Matthew Kyba

Matthew Kyba is an independent curator currently situated in Portland, OR. His curatorial interests focus on exploring unique exhibition strategies and alternative spaces. He recently graduated from OCAD University with an MFA from the Criticism and Curatorial Practice Program.


(Images from here.)

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