Provocative Pop Artist Kristin Simmons on Temptation, Gratification and Politics

09/29/2017 03:44 pm ET Updated Sep 30, 2017

With an upcoming solo exhibition at Galerie Mourlot and recent participation in the Whitney Museum’s Debtfair, Simmons is an artist to watch out for.

It’s in the name: Pop Art uses images from popular culture to challenge, critique and raise awareness of the trite and obtuse pits our culture tends to stumble into. While Pop Art has been around since the 50’s, it is still relevant today in its ‘power of perspective’ platform. Based in NYC, contemporary pop artist Kristin Simmons has observed culture in a city where it seems children grow up too fast and adults might not ever grow up at all.

The aesthetic of Simmons’s artwork is bold and bright and frankly, hard to miss. There is an underlying theme of contamination in her works-- childhood contaminated by exposure, independence contaminated by pleasure, spiritual awareness contaminated by consumerism, and so on. In each series, viewers can find themselves facing an obstructed familiarity. The comfort of these daily commodities and notions are removed and replaced with a visual honest analysis of what tends to blindside the masses.

Each series tackles a different concept: Candyland and Life use Hasbro’s classic board games we all know and love to shake the foundation of innocence with corruption throughout the board. Queen Frostine becomes “Blow Queen,” holding a rolled dollar bill with the same cheery smile; Gloppy is now Slotty, a casino fixated brute.

Simmons’s new series, Egg-spensive is a display of faberge eggs aimed at targeting our culture’s view of fertility preservation as a status symbol. The aspect of faberge eggs plays a role due to its history-- the eggs were typically made for members of the Russian Oligarchy as a [high] status symbol. Defining herself as a ‘Political Pop Artist,’ Simmons also targets this landscape. Her take on consumerism, capitalism and politics all come with a bit of satire accompanied by a punch in the gut of society.

“My .01% series takes vintage stock certificates and adds a modern narrative to it. The work began selling and people also started requesting certain stocks. I began creating more work critiquing our political and economical climate, such as Beauty is Life’s E-Z Pass, which was conceptualized in 2015 during the controversy with North Carolina’s transgender laws and the debate over restricting public restrooms. Then that same year, there was another controversy when the Treasury Department announced it was redesigning the $20 bill to feature a woman in 2020, which will be the first time in 100 years...I started thinking about the hypocrisy of how all the founding fathers that appear on our currency would be made-up to look like women to pose for their portraits. There are several historical documents establishing this in detail…they’d wear wigs, capes and even make-up. Each piece is a replica of US currency featuring Jefferson, Franklin and I combine screen print and colored illustration to highlight their appearance.”

Simmons has taken part in many group exhibitions including the renowned Debtfair at The Whitney Museum in New York. Her next exhibition, a solo show titled Desperate Pleasures will open October 20th, 2017 at Galerie Mourlot. She is also working on a collaboration with jewelry designer, Emily Satloff of Larkspur & Hawk, called Taliswoman, which will launch Fall/Winter of 2017.

“Growing up in New York and being part of the “millennial” generation have both greatly influenced my work. The dichotomy of when you are a child vs. adult is very blurred when you grow up in this city and you’re exposed to so much at a young age. I also began looking at the advertising we were exposed to as kids growing up during the 80’s and 90’s. How kid’s commercials, “Reaganomics” and technology all influenced us subconsciously. We’re conditioned to want money for the sake of having money and there is a lot of pressure growing up in this cultural mentality. When does exposure become too much? How do we know our own beliefs from those being thrown in our faces everyday? My work comments on what needs and should be seen.”

You can keep up with Kristin Simmons by visiting her website: http://www.kristinsimmonsart.com/.

All images courtesy of Kristin Simmons.

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