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So Young Artist Series #6: Karen Lederer

The So Young Artist Series is an ongoing project in which we collaborate with some of our favourite artists and designers on one-off items of clothing. In our sixth edition we’ve collaborated with artist, Karen Lederer. Karen’s work has featured in the print edition of So Young several times and we’ve been following her work in awe ever since.

Our collaboration t-shirt uses 3 pieces, “On the front of the t-shirt is my painting, “Owl”. It depicts a Picasso ceramic bowl filled with fruit. The painting celebrates the artwork but also deflates its importance by turning it into a utilitarian object. A number of years ago, I discovered a small catalogue of Picasso’s ceramics in a used bookstore and it began my love affair with his work. As a feminist, I feel complicated about my admiration of this Modernist patriarch. On the back of the shirt are two monoprints. While I make paintings alone in a studio, I make my prints in a bustling community printshop surrounded by people. The prints tend to be looser and more intuitive than my paintings.”

How do you go about starting a piece of work?

For my monoprints, I paint and draw onto plexiglass mostly with water-soluble materials. I lay additional smaller plates over the painting and print the whole image at once through the press. My paintings always begin with a drawing. I create stencils for sections of the image and print those onto the surface. Then I work around the printed areas with painting and drawing materials. While the work appears collaged, it is actually all one, continuous surface.

I love all the objects referenced in your work. Mugs, artwork etc. Are you a collector? And how do they make their way into a painting? Is it just by chance that they are in view or is there something about each one that’s selected because it works for the painting?

Some of the objects featured in my paintings are things I own, while others are things I would like to own but likely never will, like the Picasso Ceramics. Trained as a printmaker, I’ve always admired packaging and reproduced objects. With many of these choices, I poke fun at a hipster consumer culture with which I am hopelessly complicit. I am also fascinated by the dissemination of art historical images and how replications of them change our relationship to the originals.

Many of the objects also reference my New York City upbringing like Museum of Modern Art mugs and the Zabar’s paper bag. The objects are selected for the works because they form a dialogue with one another. The table top provides a stage where the objects can interact and tell a story.

How do you want people to feel when they see your work?

I love color, and I want the viewer to feel joy from interacting with the color in my work. I also want the viewer to feel a sense of connection through the objects that I depict. A person’s background often determines how he or she reads the references. An Upper Westsider of Manhattan notices the Zabar’s bag immediately. Another person might drink the same brand of seltzer. The products help to pull the viewer in, and then he or she can go deeper into the painting.

What can we expect to see from you in the near future?

Most of my shows were put on hold because of coronavirus. I’m participating in a group exhibition in London at Cristea Roberts Gallery which I am very excited about. Normally I visit a print shop that gives me access to printing presses. It is closed until further notice, so I’m planning to use this time to experiment and try new techniques that don’t require a press. I’ve been getting really into colored pencils recently, so expect to see more drawings coming soon!

Buy the t-shirt here.

The brand new issue of So Young is out now. Read Issue Twenty-Seven below or grab a copy in print here.