A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE

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NEW YORK “IT’S ALWAYS BEEN my impulse to use art history as almost a ready-made,” Deborah Kass told the filmmaker John Waters in 2007.1 In her big, pop-infused paintings, however, Kass is no cool-headed Duchampian, and her borrowings are anything but polite. Coming of age in the era of the Pictures Generation, and pursuing its lessons throughout her three-decade career, Kass has pilfered details of well-known 20th-century paintings and snatched the glamour of Warhol’s stars for her own Jewish, lesbian and feminist idols (and herself ). In colorful found-text paintings, she broadcasts uncool Broadway musical lyrics as well as quotations critical of male dominance in the art world. Yet at the same time, Kass pays affectionate homage to all her sources, whether art historical or musical, and to an art-world society with which she maintains a close bond, even as she castigates it for sins and omissions. Artists, collectors and historians appear often in “The Warhol Project” (1992-2000), which includes her best-known works. Within that series, her 1998 screenprint paintings “America’s Most Wanted” present eminent (and sometimes ominous-looking) curators and critics in faux mug shots, as if they were criminals of vast notoriety rather than members of a rarefied elite.

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