In 1998 Deborah Kass asked young and promising museum curators to take part in her current project: America’s Most Wanted. Based on Andy Warhol’s 1964 World’s Fair public commission for the New York State Pavilion: The 13 Most Wanted Men, Kass’ series substitutes curators for criminals. Warhol’s original mural was deemed inappropriate by then-Governor Nelson Rockefeller and painted over with silver paint. In 1967 Warhol used some of the same screens to make his series Most Wanted Men, which was then shown at Galerie Sonnabend in Paris 1967. The Queens Museum then showed the work in April 2014, only 200 yards from the original site of the mural.
Deborah Kass’ renowned Warhol Project, 1992-2000, referenced Warhol, and in the America's Most Wanted she approaches Warhol’s original work with her usual humor and verve. While Warhol’s Most Wanted hint at a covert sexuality inherent in the “bad boy” persona, Kass’ are direct in their reference of the most wanted people being those with whom she, along with every artist, wanted to forge a working relationship. Museum curators stand alone and untouchable in the artist’s view, separated from the commercial dealing of galleries and auctions by an invisible, but very present, line. As is usual in her work, Kass steps beyond the line. Just as she appropriated Elvis, Jackie and Marilyn and substituted her own "outsider" icons, she turns her subjects into a symbol of insider aspiration and admiration.
In Kass’ America's Most Wanted each of her subjects holds a plaque resembling a police placard in a mug shot. Kass’ use of an alphabetical/numerical code references the subjects’ place of employment at the time as well as the start date at that museum. Included in the series are recognizable figures: Thelma Golden, Paul Schimmel, Kellie Jones, Robert Storr, Donna De Salvo and Terrie Sultan among others. Kass’ feminist reinterpretation of Warhol’s work can be seen as a fond homage to an artist who counted himself an outsider, but ultimately became an institution. Kass’ direct referencing of social and political frameworks elevate her subjects to icons, even as she places them in a miscreant’s mug shot. They remain solidly the art world's Most Wanted, and have lasted the test of time since their start in 1998. Nearly twenty years later, the subjects continue to be powerful figures and Kass’ early choice to represent them has become a prescient capturing of a collection of in-demand figures. On exhibit for the first time in New York City, with Kass as now a major art world figure exhibiting at a young aspirational gallery, the pieces have returned full circle to their original political gesture.
Deborah Kass received her BFA in Painting at Carnegie Mellon University and studied at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. Her work is in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Jewish Museum, The Museum of Fine Art, Boston, the Harvard Art Museums/ Fogg Museum, The New Orleans Museum of Art, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, and the Perez Museum of Art, Miami as well as numerous public and private collections.
Recent group shows include “Eye Pop: The Celebrity Gaze” at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, “Come Together Sandy,” Industry City, Brooklyn, 2013, “I, You, We” at the Whitney Museum of American art, 2013, and “Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012. Recent solo exhibitions include “feel good paintings for feel bad times,” 2007 “MORE feel good paintings for feel bad times” 2010 and “My Elvis+” at Paul Kasmin Gallery. In 2012, The Andy Warhol Museum presented “Deborah Kass: Before and Happily Ever After, a Mid-Career Retrospective” with a catalogue published by Rizzoli. Her forthcoming exhibition "Black and Blue" will open December 2015 at Paul Kasmin Gallery.
In 2014, Kass was inducted into the New York Foundation for the Arts’ Hall of Fame. She was included in the recent Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Podcast Series, “The Artists Project." She is a member of the Board of the Andy Warhol Foundation and is Senior Critic of the Yale University MFA Painting Program. She is represented by Vincent Fremont and Paul Kasmin Gallery.
Deborah Kass Art F City May 19, 2015
Deborah Kass Time Out New York May 19, 2015
Deborah Kass NY Observer May 18, 2015
Deborah Kass ARTnews May 18, 2015
Deborah Kass Brask Art May 6, 2015