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Artist Profile: Kiki Kogelnik
Rocket Ship (1963). Available at Barnebys.

by Robyn Ashley

LONDON.- Born into the tensions and uncertainties of 1930s Austria, Kiki Kogelnik would later forge her identity as one of her country’s most important ‘pop artists’ some 4,000 miles away in the cap-ital of American culture.

After studying at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Kogelnik left behind a recently-independent and neutralised post-war Austria, moving to the Pacific shores of Santa Monica, California in 1961. Her time on the West Coast was short-lived, with Kogelnik relocating to New York only a year later.

It was during her time in the city that Kogelnik became immersed in America’s emerging pop art scene, acquainting herself with the likes of Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. Despite her movement in this artistic circle and the popularity of her work during the 1960s, Kogelnik’s work was often dismissed by institutions and, as a result, has been forgotten by the history of post-war Western art.

Kogelnik seems to have been aware of her overlooked presence in a male-dominated art world, with a feminist undertone surfacing in her work. Unlike her male peers, whose art con-centrated on the celebration of American consumerism, Kogelnik’s interests lay in the female body and its form, as well as the scientific and technological developments of this innovative decade. In the 1970s, Kogelnik’s work shifted from science and technology but maintained its feminine focus, moving to a continuous commentary on the female portrayal in advertising and the media.

Towards the end of her life and career, Kogelnik reverted to the European abstraction she had demonstrated during her brief engagement to abstract expressionist, Arnulf Rainer; the interest of her ‘pop art’ works in the human form persisted, but was revived in fragmented and modified forms.

After her death in 1997, Kogelnik’s work was recognised by the Tate Modern, London, in The World Goes Pop exhibition, presenting female artists from the 1960s and 70s marginalised and ignored by the sexist art institutions of their time.

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