Kimber Mallett: 21st Century Abstract Expressionism

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St. Louis, Missouri-based artist and educator Kimber Mallett has been heavily influenced by a statement that mid-twentieth century French philosopher Jean Baudrillard made. Baudrillard felt that America’s consumer society would result in its citizens replacing reality with what he termed “hyper-reality.” He felt that our world would become a place where symbols and stimuli would become the meaning of life for a new generation. If you look at the work of some of the mid-century creatives his sentiment starts to make more sense as a core starting point. Ray Bradbury, concerned with the degradation of society, wrote sci-fi tales that told of a world with little creative thought or creative freedom. Paul Rand created logos for corporations such as Westinghouse, The American Broadcasting Company, and the United Parcel Service that were incredibly graphic in nature and could be understood by anyone who spoke or wrote any language (including none). Jackson Pollock began creating explosive canvases of paint splatters and drips, almost as a rebellion from Baudrillard’s notions, as early as 1936. In 2012, we as creatives live in a society ruled by technology and the “templating” of commercial art. Everyone now thinks they can be an artist. It’s easy when “Joe Nobody” can go into photoshop and make his or her own artwork. That doesn’t mean it’s good, it just means it’s easily accessible.

Kimber is living her own rebellion. Armed with the artistic and societal knowledge of all that have come before her, she desires to break through the lack of personal expressiveness that can often be associated with digital media. The imagery in this series of digitally drawn prints is inspired by animals that lose their lives violently in the clash with human activity. The beauty of their lives is somehow retained in the physical remains, which is a testament to the fortitude of nature in the face of monumental human incursion. Kimber’s challenge, as expressed by historian Johann Winckelmann, is “the paradox of admiring beauty while seeing a scene of death and failure.” I’ve personally always felt that it made perfect sense that Abstract Expressionism was the only significant art movement born in America up until that point in time. Americans are abstract, expressive, ignorant, polite, rude, angry, thoughtful, progressive traditionalists all rolled into one. We believe in manifest destiny, yet we are monumentally opposed to change. These canvases are a microcosm of living life within a society comprised almost solely of what would have been once though of a bourgeoisie.

These prints are quite large, averaging 50″x40″. When asked why she chose to make them so large Kimber stated: “I suppose that is because I want my artwork to be big; to fit into the flow of visual history, to reflect contemporary American society, to provoke thought and inspire serenity through an artistic search for truth and beauty.” It’s a humbling task. One that she’s accomplishing magnificently. Take a look at some of her work below.

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