Karen Mainenti: Message in a Bottle at Ground Floor

Message in a Bottle, installation view at Ground Floor Gallery, 2019, photo courtesy of Jordan Rathkopf

In Message in a Bottle, the current solo installation show at Ground Floor Gallery in Park Slope, the Gowanus based artist Karen Mainenti transforms the gallery into what at first glance looks like an upscale beauty boutique. Mainenti uses this platform to explore the mechanisms at work in the packaging and marketing of beauty products over time, drawing on her own complex relationship to the products themselves. Much of Mainenti’s work examines the subtle but powerful societal expectations of women that show up in ordinary objects. The delicately cast porcelain replicas of her own cosmetics highlight the way objects can be gendered, even when reduced to their elemental forms. Often using humor as a sly way to invite the viewer in, her drawings of creams, lotions and serums using marketing language from real products highlight the inherent contradiction in the ways we read these messages as absurd, yet suspend that disbelief at the cash register when we buy them. Having visited the show when it opened, I was delighted to have the opportunity to chat with Karen about how this exhibition came together and how the various series within it have developed over time.

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