Kate Perkins took over the Project Space at the Crane Arts Building along with the curARTorial LAB to show a series of her latest works entitled “Girls On Film.” The exhibit is a colorful and culturally inquisitive look at the differences between still and moving-image media, as well as femininity in the age of the Internet.
The entire show is fueled by a very clear pop cultural foundation. All of the images appear cinematic, and with a name like “Girls On Film,” the show lives up to many of the expectations. One notable difference is that there are no actual films in the show, despite the fact that all of the paintings appear like screenshots of movie stills. Perkins digs into the wealth of imagery in movies and on the Internet and then transfers these characters and scenarios into static works of art which depend highly on appropriation. She views the Internet as a free means to transfer and disseminate ideas and encourages visitors to download music and accost images for their own purposes.
Far from a hypocrite, Perkins delves into just such a pursuit herself with the series “Superbass.” In four wood panels, she paints pictures of a pink-haired Nicki Minaj, which she lifted from an animated GIF that has been making its rounds on Tumblr. Although the rapper and her boisterous, strong personality have obvious implications for female culture, Perkins tends to focus more on the way that this information is shared than its blatant outward appearance. From video, to GIF, to acrylic on a wood panel, the layers of information sharing and meta-ness abound.
In “Knife Fight,” Perkins dives headlong into one of her more narrative paintings. The tension is palpable in the scene, which accurately shows an action sequence without the slightest bit of movement. Two faceless girls stand facing each other across a field, the nearer one brandishing a sharp dagger. Like some duel from a Tarantino film, the two stare each other down indefinitely, waiting to make a move. In this case, a move they will never even get to make.
There are also a couple of more abstract works like street scenes of glowing signs and lanterns in “Korea” and “Japan.” These paintings serve to create a setting for the non-film features going on in the gallery space. While figures appear in both of these artworks, they are small and silhouetted, focusing the viewer’s attention instead on the surroundings. Like a true film director, Perkins wordlessly sets the mood through her choice of colors and locations.
With the medium of paint, Perkins does an excellent job mimicking both Internet and cinematic pop culture, especially considering she has much less to work with than cameras or websites. This transfer of information exists alongside female characters that are sometimes bold and other times sensitive. Some are pensive observers and others determined fighters. Most of all, they are solid character studies in a film that Perkins paints herself.
The Crane Arts Building is located at 1400 N. American Street, Philadelphia; 215-232-3203; www.cranearts.com.