Karen Kilimnik


This exhibition is the first significant survey of the work of American artist Karen Kilimnik, a key figure in contemporary art who emerged in the late 1980s and early nineties. Kilimnik was first acclaimed for her so-called scatter-art installations of various bits of pop cultural detritus strewn about a gallery space to create a sensibility somewhere between the postminimalism of Robert Morris and Barry Le Va and the backstage of a fashion preview. She has recently become recognized for paintings that combine art historical tradition, modish topicality, and an awkward intimacy and fragility.

Kilimnik’s work cultivates an unabashed sense of romanticism yet it retains a knowing criticality and awareness of the personal desire that we invest in both vaunted works of visual art and the more fleeting intrigue of celebrities and superstars. It also draws on the literary traditions of gothic mystery and fairy tales, presenting narratives that unfold over the course of a series of related paintings. Her expansive approach to cultural forms and the convincing inventiveness of her installations has had a profound effect on many young artists working today.

This exhibition presents a survey of Kilimnik’s paintings and installation-based works since the late 1980s and is curated by Ingrid Schaffner, Senior Curator at the ICA Philadelphia. The MCA presentation is coordinated by MCA Curator Dominic Molon.


With the launch of this website, the MCA has created a platform for archiving and publishing images and stories from our 50-year history. Though many exhibition pages currently lack descriptions or illustrations, we’re committed to a program of ongoing research that will fill in the blanks over time. If you have information about past MCA exhibitions to share, we’d be delighted to hear from you.