SB- How do you think people received this show?
MK- I don't think they got it.
SB- I thought the show was very dry, and I knew people would react to that...
MK- You said that before, but I don't understand what that means, because I don't think it was visually any drier than my previous work, except maybe the stuffed-animal works, but people just like those because they allow them to emote.
SB- Maybe, but compared to the black-and-white drawings that you've done in the past, pieces such as the photos of children's paintings accompanied by texts, this work was hard to approach.
MK- The black-and-white drawings have a certain amount of visual oomph they're simple imagery, really. They're like posters, nicely designed, but in actuality I think from the "Half a Man" series onward I allowed the viewer more. Because the early drawings are quite reduced, in that I wouldn't allow myself to use any color, but on the other hand I felt, "Why is my world so restricted to this presentational mode?" and that's when I started using craft material. Now I'm more interested in using materials that have certain kinds of cultural qualities in themselves, the way an architectural model has a certain kind of pretty quality that is inherent to it, and in going back and doing paintings again and allowing myself to do something that I really wouldn't allow myself to do because I was embarrassed by it. So I've been in shows in Europe, for example, in recent years that were only paintings, and people go into those and may think that I returned to paintings, but people have gotten really lazy in recent years, and they don't want to look at what the work is about, they just want to fetishize the painting qualities of things.
SB- I don't really believe that the black-and-white drawings were any less demanding than the new work you're doing now. They were never indulgent or showy, they were never about draftsmanship.
MK- At the time, though, because it was before the return of pop in the art world, the general criticism couldn't get past the fact that they looked like cartoons. They only saw them in terms of high and low issues, and it was really frustrating for me, and I just said forget about it. Now the art world has changed so much in the last six or seven years, and become so dominated by pop strategies, that these old drawings look really natural now; but at the time there was a kind of rigor I could see in them that other people couldn't see. At the time, people talked about them as if they were cut out of a comic book, and how they were about "aesthetics of the low."
SB- ...or adolescence.
MK- Yes, or adolescence or childhood or something like that, just kind of numskull, bad-boy issues, as if I were doing this work to be naughty. I even go back and do work like that on occasion, because I know what it looks like, but I'm more interested in these other problems. I'm more interested in the problem of making a painting that people will look at sincerely in terms of the handed-down qualities. I think almost all my work has that quality now, and it's overtly historical.
SB- It's almost a surrealist strategy in a sense, the fact that you're allowing yourself to work in a way that is taboo -- at least in regard to what most people expect your work to be.
MK- Abstract-surrealism was an attempt to break with bourgeois picturing techniques, but Magritte and Dali were interested in utilizing those techniques. In my work the social pact of imaging is foregrounded, there's less focus on individual psyche and more on social psyche.
SB- I have always been very curious about a group of work that made reference to Wilhelm Reich, I don't think you gave a title to it, but you had an orgone shed, an enema table etc. How do you think that body of work was received?
MK- Well, it was pretty much ignored. But then most of my work has been pretty much ignored since the stuffed animals.
SB- It was a very strong show, and I was expecting a good reaction to it, but it was frustrating to see that no one seemed to care.
MK- I hate to say this, but I think a lot of my work is reactive to what people say about the previous work. And that work was really a reaction against the discussions surrounding the craft works. There was a lot of discussion about them in relation to feminism and gender politics. It wasn't exactly what my interest was. Because that was a PC period, I thought that people got caught up with the assumption that everything that's sewn is about women, when I gave plenty of clues that my work wasn't about that. I didn't see why people kept clinging to this idea. And really their doing this was just about politics, it was about trying to use my work as a springboard to talk about how women artists have been unfairly treated in art history. I don't mind that, but that's not what I was doing. So I thought, I'll just do some work that is really male. And then I thought, I'll just use different male archetypes.