There’s no stopping Kim Gordon, who’s equal parts rock star (literally), fashion muse, fashion designer and artist. Next week, the Sonic Youth chanteuse — who studied at L.A.’s Otis College of Art and Design and wrote for Artforum in the Eighties — is set to unveil two new paintings exclusive to art retail site Exhibition A (co-founded by Cynthia Rowley, Bill Powers and Laura Martin), which is selling 50 limited-edition prints of each starting Wednesday. Named “Your Self-Portrait” and “Larry Gagosian,” the works feature Gordon’s signature paint-splattered writing, similar to “The Noise Painting” series she exhibited at New York’s John McWhinnie @ Glenn Horowitz Bookseller and Art Gallery last summer. Back then, WWD visited her at her Northampton, Mass., home, to dish art and fashion. Almost a year later, we’re catching up with the multihyphenate Gordon again. On the agenda this time: more art and more fashion — and, of course, Gagosian.
WWD: What’s the backstory to “Your Self-Portrait?”
Kim Gordon: Bad Warhol-style Pop Art. I wanted to do something that related to the idea behind Exhibition A — affordable art for people that has interesting ideas. It’s the notion of an affordable commission for a self-portrait.
This story first appeared in the April 22, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
WWD: And the Gagosian piece?
K.G.: I was thinking of the dealer or gallery persona surpassing that of the artist, the idea of brand name over product [and] not being able to differentiate between them. Perfume is the ultimate version of that because it’s so celebrity name-brand driven. People wanting to buy a piece of work from a particular dealer the way consumers like to buy from a certain store — it gives them confidence.
WWD: Do you know him personally?
K.G.: Before Larry had a career as an art dealer, he had this business selling prints, these mass-produced, pretty schlocky prints. My friend and I worked for him, framing them. This was in Los Angeles in early 1971. We framed hundreds in a day. And then when I moved to New York, Larry had a gallery with Annina Nosei, though they couldn’t have it open to the public because it was in some co-op on West Broadway. I worked for Annina basically — I think this was in 1980, before she started showing Jean-Michel Basquiat — and was supposed to be the receptionist, although I didn’t know how to type. That’s where I met Richard Prince. He brought in his watch photos and they were in these metal frames that I was very familiar with. I sort of gave him a hard time, jokingly, about them.
WWD: Have you done similar paintings of other gallerists?
K.G.: Yes, it’s part of a series. There’s also a Barbara Gladstone and a Reena Spaulings. But I don’t have any thoughts right now about doing a huge collection. Though if somebody wants me to do one for them, I’ll do it.
WWD: You’ve done word paintings based on song lyrics, names of underground noise bands and random phrases, but is this your first time doing people?
K.G.: I did a Raymond Pettibon one a couple of years ago — that was the first. We met a long time ago in L.A. He was just kind of around the scene. His brother is Greg Ginn [of the band Black Flag] and he would use Raymond’s drawings for the album covers. I think I was actually the first person to write about his work in Artforum, because until then nobody knew who he was except around the L.A. punk scene.
WWD: Last time you told me you hated your handwriting. Have you changed your mind now that you’re making art out of it?
K.G.: When I’m writing in a normal way, I think it’s bad handwriting. But if I have enough distance from something, it doesn’t bother me. It’s the same with my voice sometimes. If I hear something I did a really long time ago, there’s enough distance from it that it doesn’t bother me. But there is a trap in doing handwriting that is kind of irregular. I need to find more ways to continue it being irregular without making it too mannered or stylized.
WWD: What was the last art show you saw?
K.G.: I saw the John Knight exhibit at the Greene Naftali Gallery. He’s somebody who was a big influence on my work. His work is very in situ, influenced by the context of the gallery. You know, I’m doing these paintings, but it’s not like I see myself as a painter. I want to go back to doing more installation work.
WWD: Any upcoming installations then?
K.G.: I’m reviving an art project I did in the early Eighties called “Design Office.” [The work] takes on the role of interior decorator-psychologist to create an in-situ intervention with a space-client or gallerist. I’m really interested in the psychological aspect of space and the relationship between gallerist and artist and that sort of thing.
WWD: Where and when is this happening?
K.G.: I can’t really say right now. There’s this space uptown that I’m interested in, but I don’t want to name.
WWD: Any news on the fashion front?
K.G.: I have a small collaboration with Surface to Air that comes out next spring. It’s going to be about five or six pieces.
WWD: Since you’re so tied to the fashion and art worlds, what are your thoughts on the recent talk about fashion not belonging in museums?
K.G.: It just depends on the nature of the show. I mean, designers like [Kate and Laura Mulleavy of] Rodarte, I would say yes, they could be in a museum. And, I mean, museums always want to bring people in and do crowd-pleasing shows. In some ways, I don’t see why fashion would be any different than some of the shows they do already. I kind of feel like fashion is taking over everything anyways. It just depends on what and how interesting the ideas are.