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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

UWM Union Art Gallery Turns ‘Kate Brandt Pink’

Art Review

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Shocking pink, Schiaparelli pink, Kate Brandt pink: All colors, even all shades of colors, carry psychological impact. The UW-Milwaukee Union Art Gallery exhibition “Kate Brandt Pink” explores this theme through startling artwork that responds to the legendary Yves Klein and his International Klein Blue (IKB).

For this exhibit, Brandt selected contemporary artists to use the trademark Kate Brandt Pink (KBP) while addressing topics of class, gender, power and race, among others. The pieces respond to Klein’s blue and his work in 1950s and ’60s Paris in which nude female models covered their bodies in IKB to become living brushes by rolling on large canvases.

It could be argued that fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli first used pink to embrace both the masculine and feminine with her 1930s couture and its use of outrageous pink. But it is Kate Brandt Pink that dominates the Union Art Gallery’s tall, deep space through installations, paintings, photographs, prints, sculptures and videos.

As an artist, Brandt infuses her signature color into digital photography that dramatizes color contrasts in prints like KBP Campbell’s Soup Cans and KBP Spiral Jetty. While Andy Warhol’s famous red labels are playful in pink in Brandt’s KBP Campbell’s Soup Cans, Robert Smithson’s giant pink spiral appears incongruent to the landscape in KBP Spiral Jetty. Both works show that color indeed changes a subject’s context and the viewer’s perception.

In the UWM exhibit, Anna Helgeson’s photographic essay titled Whitey Goes Pink portrays her as a character with a mime-white face and imperial white wig. The character is receiving a pedicure in which toenails are painted KBP. The artwork provokes thoughts on identity, race and gender. Will a particular color give a positive or negative identity to the public? For example, a pale pink ribbon now symbolizes breast cancer awareness.

Additional artists use KBP in a variety of ways, including a hand-stitched cross (Franko B), a multimedia wall hanging featuring plastic crabs in organic and decorative patterns (Cassandra Smith) and a video tribute to blushing and its numerous connotations (Richard Mutz).

On opening night, Brandt filled a KBP wall at the gallery’s east end with spontaneous remarks written on white paper. An individual might wear KBP, or choose to, as Brandt exclaims on one poster, “Swim it! Eat it! Live it! Love it!” Regardless, the color evokes strong emotions and opinions—especially in the Midwest, where one imagines replacing a safe, comforting beige world with a strong KBP statement about identity and society.

“Kate Brandt Pink” continues through April 2.

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