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Kim Gordon, The City Is a Garden
Photograph: Paul WagtouiczKim Gordon, The City Is a Garden

Kim Gordon talks about her return to making art full-time

Her band days behind her, Gordon discusses her life post-Sonic Youth in light of her art installation at 303 Gallery

Written by
Howard Halle

Kim Gordon insists on wearing sunglasses while her picture is taken at Chelsea’s 303 Gallery, where a show of her latest artworks is on view. She admits she doesn’t like to be photographed, which seems strange coming from an alt-rock icon. On the other hand, it may reflect her focus, post–Sonic Youth, on making art full-time (with some performing on the side). But, as she explains to Time Out New York, she’d always made art, even while she was a musician, and if anything, Sonic Youth sidetracked her artistic career.

Most of your fans don’t really know you make art, right?
Yeah, they don’t delve much into the art world. In fact, unless you are involved in the art world, you’ll know the names of maybe five artists, which is weird considering how much information is out there.

But certainly having name recognition helps your art get attention.
Sure. I guess. I don’t really care. I mean, I’m doing it regardless. I’d studied painting and conceptual art in school in L.A., and I moved here in 1980 originally to do art. I had a show at White Columns in 1981 and started to make work again around 2000, even with the band still going. So it’s something I’ve always done.

So Sonic Youth was a diversion from your real career.
Yes, but there were reasons I joined the band. You’ve got to understand that in the early 1980s there was this huge explosion in the art world, with all of these galleries opening up, like Mary Boone and Metro Pictures, fighting over all of these artists like David Salle and Julian Schnabel. It freaked me out a bit, so music became my escape from that, though as I say not entirely.

So what is your show about?
It’s about lifestyle branding and everything getting marketed and how that leads into gentrification and the way the city has changed. It’s a more beautiful place—there’s always a new park springing up somewhere—but New York used to be a somewhere people came to make a difference. Now they seem to come here to be boring.

What’s the difference between performing and making art?
Visual art is more of a lifelong conversation and dialogue that allows you to follow your interests in a way that music doesn’t. Its more satisfying to be able to work on your own.

Kim Gordon, “Design Office: The City Is a Garden,” is at 303 Gallery through July 25.

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See the exhibition

Kim Gordon, “Design Office: The City Is A Garden”
  • Art
  • Sculpture

Well before Sonic Youth broke up, Kim Gordon had been making art with the same performative flavor of the wild, thrashing music she and her band mates were noted for. The work for her 303 solo debut follows suit. On view are canvases with written referents to high-end home design (left crumpled on the floor) and silvery spray paint and glitter abstractions on unstretched canvas. Altogether the show comments on lifestyle branding, and the ever-dizzying levels of gentrification that are transforming New York.

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