Kalen Hollomon likes to play with depictions of gender and subvert the codes of luxury advertising. The California-born, New York-based mixed media photographer creates images that run the gamut from silly (animating Karl Lagerfeld's eyes behind dark glasses) to provocative (repurposing a picture of Rosa Parks as a Céline ad). But they always confound the viewer's expectations.
A selection of Kalen's images is currently on view at Colette in Paris. The show comprises 14 collages incorporating "found" pop culture imagery, and seven 35mm photographs, shot in New York and digitally revamped to resemble advertising campaigns. They're mostly hung in the boutique's stairwell, leading up to the space where clothes are for sale — notably, clothes by some of the labels he satirizes in his images.
Have photography and collage always been part of your life?
I went to assorted colleges and art programs - I never finished any of them - but I've done collage for a long time. I still have some pieces from when I was 8 years old. Collage often finds it's way into my paintings; sometimes it completely takes them over.
Photography I've done on and off since I was young too, but I've really started taking more pictures over the last five years. Mostly with the intention of using them to make other work, but also, as a result, I have developed an insatiable appetite for researching cameras online.
How do you matchmake images and text, or different visuals?
In collage, and in all my work, I like opposing content, manipulating points of view and provoking thought. I don't overthink it - mostly it's just based on what feels right or excites me in some way.
Would you say you're a fan of fashion?
I'm a fan of creativity and I like how quickly the fashion world moves. I'm interested in the way an outfit interacts with and changes the wearer, and how it helps shape my view of that person, or allows me to get to know them a little bit.
How closely do you have to follow fashion to be able to successfully skewer it?
With greater knowledge comes greater skewering.
In this new series, you integrate the names of luxury brands - each of which has a very controlled approach to its image. Have you gotten any backlash?
So far, all interactions with brands have been positive. I hope they understand that I respect them very much. If they weren't so good and controlled, who would even care?
How do you know when appropriation has gone too far? Is there such thing as too far?
I'd like to say there is no such thing as going too far when it comes to appropriation, but everyone has his or her breaking point.
You regularly remix male and female tropes in your images. Have you felt any shifts in the gender conversation around your pieces since you started making work?
At this point, I feel like sexual- and gender-fluidity have almost become the norm. Like, finding a heterosexual male these days is rare, if that even exists. I hope that the growing mainstream exposure to alternative gender norms just leads us all down a road of more acceptance - I'm for that.
Which artists do you turn to for inspiration?
I was just watching some old Chris Burden videos. The ways he thought and approached his projects is really inspiring; he reminds me that anything is possible.
You use both humor and provocation in your work. What makes you laugh? What provokes you?
Bizarre and true situations make me laugh, like when someone goes to answer their phone, then pulls it out of their pocket only to find it was the person next to them whose phone was ringing. Honest human mistakes and misunderstandings. I'm negatively provoked by injustice and abuse to animals and kids. Also when my clothing is uncomfortable.
What are you working on next?
A series of sculptures accompanied by audio, more paper works, more photos.
Kalen's work is on show at Colette through October 24.
Text Sarah Moroz
Images courtesy Kalen Hollomon