Kate Costello — Set Ups
For the past few years, Kate Costello has been working on a series of photographs of women posing in front of drawings posing as backdrops. First exhibited as Kiki & Me at Wallspace gallery in New York in the fall of 2011, they were shown again at the Hammer Museum as part of the Made in L.A. exhibition in the summer of 2012. Costello is known primarily as a sculptor (though she has shown her large-scale graphic and gridded drawings before). Generally, her sculptures of polished aluminum, plaster or paper pulp have a uniform composition and texture—all shiny, all matte, or all gritty. Her drawings—shapes and lines suggesting fragments of patterns and logos, rendered in ink or pigment on paper—are also very, very flat. With the photos, Kate is able to incorporate multiple layers of texture, putting one thing (a nude) in front of another (a drawing or backdrop) in a space (with some furniture).
In the photographs that comprise Kiki & Me, the women are nude, so the photographs belong to the category of “the nude.” The artist culls the models’ poses from the annals of art history, and a good art historical detective might be able to tease out their sources. Costello looks at paintings and photographs that she loves and takes inspiration from them. The backdrop drawings are quoted from the same archive, or pulled from her sketchbooks, which are full of collected patterns, figures, signs and symbols, sketches that also form the seeds of most of her drawings and sculptures.
Here, in the following pages of X-TRA, the models are missing. We see only the set-ups, the stages, the empty rooms. In three photographs, we are presented with the backdrops and the furniture that supported the models, elements that are easy to overlook in the Kiki & Me series, because, well, there’s a naked woman in the image. Surprisingly, without that third element in the foreground, the photographs have more depth, more texture. We see this empty space in three dimensions—the way the light falls on the paper, the grain of the wood on the chair, the marks on the wall. The Set Ups have their own mystique. Instead of flattening out, they gain intrigue. They are themselves ladies in waiting, waiting for their ladies.
Kate also contributed the drawing that appears on the front and back cover of the print version of the issue.
Kate Costello, Untitled, ink on paper, 2012.
Kate Costello (b. 1974, Newfane, Vermont) lives and works in Los Angeles. Past exhibitions include Made in L.A. at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Suburban in Oak Park; Kiki & Me at Wallspace, New York; Making Do, curated by Robert Storr and Sam Messer, Green Gallery, Yale University School of Art, New Haven; THING: New Sculpture from Los Angeles, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; and a billboard project for LA><ART, Los Angeles.
Shana Lutker is an artist and Managing Editor of X-TRA.