Kacper Abolik: The Mythology of Fame
Within Kacper Abolik's paintings is a cast of familiar celebrities ranging from Kanye West and Kylie Jenner to A$AP Rocky and Bloody Osiris. Even as a recluse, I’m sure you’ve heard of them. Through Abolik’s paintbrush, these celebrities whom routinely invade our mass media have come alive once again to pierce our collective imagination, only this time by Abolik’s brush. When deciding upon a subject for inquiry Abolik appears to give more weight towards figures with historical impact regardless of how the subject acquired his or her fame. Because that is the case, Abolik is able to reconcile a portrait of an Instagram famous model with Bernard Arnault.
In some sense, these celebrities of today are no different than the famous Kings and Queens of European history. Both share a penchant for luxury, crave the spotlight, and are ever concerned with their appearance. The only difference is most modern celebrities owe their newfound over-night fame to the internet - rather than any hereditary patronage. Since no one in history before our time attained global recognition as an internet personality, Abolik’s work is the window into the life and world of a modern celebrity. Therefore it makes sense for Abolik to paint the Pope and Kanye since both may be considered equally important icons in Western history. Now I can imagine a few people getting bent out shape about me saying that but despite their different professional background each of them shares a unique capacity to impact culture.
An artist is only as interesting as the figures he selects for inquiry. Luckily for Abolik this isn’t a problem as he has an exceptional eye for spotting potential talent. In some sense, Kacper’s brush is able to render a more emotionally interesting image than any press photograph because he empathizes with his subjects - rather than callously catching them off guard from in the bushes with a Nikon. When his paintings are side by side with an in-person image of his subject, as seen in his A$AP Rocky series, Abolik’s paintings playfully exaggerate the subject’s iconic features in order to reflect our culture’s imaginative perception of celebrity. However, this freedom of expression in portrait painting is still a relatively new development in the history of visual art. Prior to the 20th-century painters who were interested in painting iconic figures had to do so from distance without expressing their emotion towards the subject. Now that the flood-gate has been left open - there is no turning back.
Women have always been a favorite subject of painters and Abolik is no exception. However, when he captures women in his painting they are typically are found perfectly balancing upon a pedestal with one of their legs removed. Give it a try and you’ll find it poses almost no one can hold longer than a few moments. Perhaps this is best seen in his work "An Unknown Saint", a painting in which a figure with one heel stands triumphantly draped in the cross. The contrast between the woman and the cross suggests society’s pension for holding women to unreasonable standards which they inevitability can never achieve. In some sense, all women, not just celebrities, are being crucified as well as celebrated for striving for the same recognition and success of men.
In addition to curvy waists and round hip Abolik’s female subjects often appear with voluptuous breasts but the actual gender of the subject is ambiguous - not that it really matters, in the environment Abolik places in gender as a concept, in general, doesn’t seem to apply.
The problems encountered by the scientist are of the world and can, therefore, be reconciled in solitude away from society. Artists, on the other hand, bring new problems to the attention of the world and can’t help but take apart in it. However, since artists and their creations exist as problems within society artists must embrace their participation in society in order to imbue their art with a contemporary feeling.
Another aspect of his style I particularly enjoy is that he serializing his work when he wants to dive deeper into a certain subject which uniquely interests him. In his Kanye, Rocky, and Kylie series the viewer really gets an opportunity to see the process of Abolik develop over time as well as his skill as a craftsman capable of reproducing one fundamental image in several distinct variations.
I’ll be the first to say it since I’m sitting here thinking it, Kacper has elevated social media aesthetics into a new class of high art, something most of us who routinely scroll through Twitter thought was impossible. In the end, these celebrities get a bad reputation simply because they are portrayed in the wrong medium. Once they are portrayed by Abolik and his paintbrush his abstract style restores the subject of its dignity and mystery.