Cute, or Something

No one has gone broke overestimating alt-culture’s appetite for cutesy images of anthropomorphic creatures. Given the bustling market for adorable cryptids, chatty birds, and coffee-swilling bears, the craft fair aesthetic threatens to devolve into precious, saccharine kitsch. While we’re not immune to the charms of art that suggests Maurice Sendak by way of Adobe Illustrator, its rare that the stuff has anything to say. Katya Bonnenfant’s work could be initially mistaken for sharing this oddly empty aesthetic, but there’s a provocative subtext to her work that clearly separates it from its ilk. Despite the immediate sense of whimsy and humor evoked by her multimedia pieces, closer inspection reveals affecting cartoon characters at war with one another in familiar yet uncanny settings. Her exhibition, “La Destitution de la jeune fille” (for non-Francophiles, “The Deposition of the Young Girl”), takes inspiration from the late-’90s French anarchist writing collective Tiqqun, which argued that the contemporary notion of the young girl was a potent vector for examining the emptiness of capitalist life. Bonnenfant’s creatures battle in a consumerist wasteland, in thrall of this pervasive ideal. It’s pretty heady stuff if you go deep, but fortunately her work can be appreciated on multiple levels, not only as an intellectual abstraction but also as unexpected provocation.
Oct. 14-Jan. 9, 2010

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