Born in Philadelphia and educated at Temple University, Karen Kilimnik emerged in the early 1990s as a key proponent of so-called "scatter" art, alongside artists such as Felix Gonzales-Torres, Mike Kelley, Cady Noland, and Jack Pierson. Controversial for her seemingly casual, even aggressive, organization of materials and the unapologetically feminine perspective with which she animates her installations, Kilimnik seemed to have appeared "out of nowhere," and was the subject of many journalistic profiles and fervent critiques in the early years of her career.
From the deconstructed aesthetic of these earlier scatter pieces, comprised chiefly of pop culture detritus and co-opted imagery, Kilimnik has more recently developed a primarily painting-based practice, often outfitting intimate "antechambers" with diminutive, loosely-rendered canvases and props to create provocative mises-en-scènes. Like her early work, these evince an abundant, quasi-fictive world where lofty art historical references commingle with current events and cultural icons, ballet and romantic painting collide with punk music and celebrity glam, and classical taste joins with sly wit and darkly humorous metaphor.
Kilimnik's work has been the focus of several solo exhibitions in recent years, including shows at Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, MOCA Miami, Serpentine Gallery, London, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Historisches Museum, Basel, Galerie Sprüth/Magers, Munich, and the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, among other international venues. She participated in the 1993 Whitney Biennial, and has had her work selected for group exhibitions at Palais de Tokyo, Paris, P.S.1 and the Museum of Modern Art, Institute of Contemporary Art, London, Kunsthalle Dusseldorf, and Museum van Loon, Amsterdam, among many other museums and galleries worldwide.