Acquisitions: Kathryn Andrews

by Leigh Arnold, Ph.D.

Pop culture and the history of conceptual art tangle in this recent Nasher acquisition.


Los Angeles–based artist Kathryn Andrews (American, born 1973) mines the American cultural landscape to investigate relationships between popular culture and power structures, in particular how images and brands are used to establish authority. Andrews’s work, which combines found objects, historic images, and references to art movements such as Pop art, Minimalism, and Finish Fetish, aims to show how meaning is contingent on context. To create her sculptures, Andrews will often rent materials from Southern California celebrity-themed shops—a t-shirt worn by Brad Pitt, for example, or a wedding ring donned by Ashton Kutcher. In using these props, whose value comes only through their proximity to celebrity, Andrews troubles the idea of precious materials. Often she combines a meticulously fabricated “framing” element with a second notable object, the juxtaposition of which invites a multitude of implied narrative projections, while simultaneously destabilizing traditional assumptions about the formal hierarchies of sculptural pedestal, armature, and object. 

A recent addition to the Nasher collection, Die Another Day resembles a large dressing-room mirror reminiscent of those found in Hollywood green rooms. Its slick structure supports a prop bullet from the James Bond film of the same name. Through the juxtaposition of the prop and the artist-fabricated mirror-polished stainless steel, the work is a contemporary consideration of the vanitas tradition and questions how objects accrue significance in different contexts. The prop’s meaning shifts in relation to its Hollywood history, the viewer’s presence, and the dressing table’s seductive materiality, which references various art historical movements, such as Pop art, Finish Fetish, and Minimalism. The highly polished, meticulously produced sculpture is characteristic of Andrews’s consideration of the artist’s role and presence in the work, questioning the Minimalist’s insistence on the independence and objective status of the artwork. Her use of stainless steel—an anonymous, industrial material—nonetheless becomes associated with the artist through its repeated use.

Die Another Day represents an important addition to the Nasher collection. Andrews’s sculpture expands the representation of conceptually oriented objects and offers a new path for consideration of issues—the role of the artist in art-making and the reconsideration of popular culture— initially explored by Minimalist and Pop art predecessors in the collection.

Die Another Day was exhibited in Kathryn Andrews/Alex Israel at Gagosian Gallery, Rome in 2014 and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago’s 2015 exhibition Run For President, which traveled to the Nasher Sculpture Center September 10, 2016 – January 8, 2017.

Die Another Day, 2013
Polished stainless steel, glass, brass, and certified film prop
79 x 55 x 6 in. (200.7 x 139.7 x 15.2 cm)
Gift of Avo Tavitian
© Kathryn Andrews
Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, California