Psy, Kim Jong-un, and Hillary Clinton Star in Julia Wachtel’s Controversial Show

Clinton is compared to an ancient artifact that symbolizes female potency.

View Slideshow
Julia Wachtel, Stripe (2014).
Photo: courtesy of Elizabeth Dee.
Julia Wachtel, Spirit (2014).
Photo: courtesy Elizabeth Dee.
Julia Wachtel, The execution of abstraction" (2015).
Photo: courtesy of Elizabeth Dee.
Julia Watchel, untitled (2014).
Photo: courtesy of Elizabeth Dee.
Julia Watchel, Wild(2014).
Photo: courtesy of Elizabeth Dee.
Julia Wachtel, Time and Again (2014).
Photo: courtesy of Elizabeth Dee.

It might not be The Interview, but will North Korean authorities still loathe this exhibition?

For her upcoming solo show of paintings, titled, “Empowerment,” at Elizabeth Dee in New York, Julia Wachtel parodies two key figures influencing pop culture and politics: the “Gangnam Style” sensation Psy, and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.

The largest work on view, titled, Stripe, presents a stock image of Jong-un juxtaposed with cartoon drawings of Psy the Korean pop star who is responsible for the most popular video on YouTube, with over two billion views. To unify the images, the artist painted a thick transparent charcoal stripe across the seven-paneled work, which explores dominance in and out of the realm of politics.

“Empowerment is one of those overused catchwords,” the artist wrote to artnet News via email. “It is used in the context of self-improvement, sexual and identity politics, as well as electoral politics and self-proclaimed insurgent movements. It is what everyone seemingly strives for personally and politically. And not insignificantly it references the grandiosity of the aspiration of the artist.”

Wachtel first appeared on the art scene as part of the New York “Pictures Generation,” a group of artists that includes Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, Robert Longo, and Richard Prince.

To balance her personal critique of the North Korean leader in Stripe, Watchel painted someone she admires in Spirit—a canvas that depicts Hillary Clinton standing adjacent to an American flag, next to images of the Venus of Kostenky, an artifact dating from 21,000 B.C. that symbolizes “female potency.”

“Empowerment” at Elizabeth Dee, 545 West 20th Street, opens May 16 through June 20, 2015.


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