Exhibition Pick: Ken Tate

Ashley L. Voss looks at how Ken Tate uses paint and found imagery to critique the commercial fashion industry in his exhibition at Steve Martin Fine Art.

Ken Tate, F.A. #10, 2016. Mixed media. Courtesy the artist and Steve Martin Fine Art, New Orleans.

Ken Tate
Steve Martin Fine Art
624 Julia Street
October 1–November 29, 2016

Sexually fetishized figures, adorning popular advertisements, are often used by the mass media to manipulate susceptible consumers. Ken Tate’s “Decon + Dilemma,” on view at Steve Martin Fine Art, is a frolicsome defacing of 30 such magazine advertisements. Tate smears and splatters acrylic paint on fashion campaigns printed on thin sheets of polypropylene paper, a common, versatile plastic-fiber. The works are then enlarged, printed, and painted on again. In Fashion model / Anonymous, 2016, a black and white Yves Saint Laurent ad is tarnished by ultramarine and magenta paint. The now unrecognizable model and brand name peer behind a heavy-handed, impasto glob. Fashion companies become a quip without the last laugh—stripped of their usual glamour. Celebrities boasting luxury brands are left uncelebrated.

In “Decon + Dilemma,” charisma is prevalent, although displaced within the works—its home undecided between constructed scenes and Tate’s abstract markings. Handbags are hidden by streaks of gold and red paint in Prada Ad, 2016. Here, the blandishments seem to be in limbo between yesterday’s design and tomorrow’s next big thing. Pop colors flirt the works’ foregrounds; text and image fade to illegible. Tate disrupts these familiar marketing images to highlight the dispensability of current media culture, prodding us to consider what might come next.