Kaari Upson

Frame Rate: Kaari Upson

MOCA Grand Ave
250 S Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Wednesday, September 28, 2022 6:30 PM

Free RSVP Here

Kaari Upson: Selected Shorts 

MOCA and LAND are pleased to present a screening of selected short videos by the late artist Kaari Upson (1970 – 2021), that demonstrate her uncanny investigations of the overlaps, fissures, and disjunctions between our interior worlds and exterior reality. Upson worked in a wide array of media including sculpture, video, drawing and painting. For nearly two decades, she constructed a singular artistic universe that melded autobiographical and collective traumas, fears and fantasies and often illuminated what might be called “Americanness” or the “American psyche.” The Los Angeles-based artist’s artful conjuring of abject imagery targeted viewers’ psychological comfort zone confronting them with visceral and affecting evocations of loss and instability. In her videos, Upson would play various roles, mostly a persona based on herself, or her mother, or her childhood best friend (Kris). These selected shorts demonstrate Upson’s enigmatic narrative style, and her frequent use of repetition and mirroring. 


Howard, 2019

HD video, color, sound

1:48 min

In the absurd and bewildering video Howard, a heavily made-up woman wearing a trench coat over a brown dress with white polka dots nonchalantly offers self-defense tips to her doppelganger while laying on a giant fallen tree. 


In Search of the Perfect Double, 2016-17

HD video, color, sound

36:18 min

In Search of the Perfect Double (2017) comes from a series of works focused on a family living in a Las Vegas tract house. Demonstrating a penchant for deadpan, Upson plays “Her,” an androgynous potential home buyer who visits multiple versions of the same model house, searching for her ideal home. In each house, Her and the entourage accompanying her obsessively compare the architectural details in each model to an original that was built in 1979 by the biggest producer of tract homes in the Las Vegas suburbs. Upson compares the unnerving similarities and slight incongruities evident between these tract houses on subdivided land, which are intentionally designed to be identical or mirror images of one another. Within this environment, characterized by its architectural mirroring, Upson highlights the psychological tensions that haunt these bulk-manufactured domestic spaces, and the disquiet inherent in striving toward an imaginary perfect double. 


A Place for a Snake, 2019

HD video, color, sound

7:01 min

A Place for a Snake further illustrates Upson’s interest in repetition and doubling. The video features two characters in a bedroom of one of the aforementioned tract homes. Here, the character from Howard is joined by Upson performing as her best friend Kris, wearing medical scrubs from work. They speak in random fragments jumping from one banal topic to another—cats, faces, human connection, quotes from their mothers, family. Both performers are heavily made up with eyes painted over their own, which effectively renders them blind, and they move about the room awkwardly, echoing one another repeating phrases like, “There is an up, there was no up before” and “There’s a stairway to nowhere” as they reflect on the distinctions between the various house models.  

House Worry, 2019

HD video, color, sound

9:06 min


Others, 2019

HD video, color, sound

2:23 min

House Worry, 2019 and Others, 2019 both come from Upson’s dollhouse project, which debuted at the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019. In these videos, the artist and her friend Kris, made up in the image of one another, perform and narrate stories and odd encounters from Kris’s life. Scale and personae are rendered strange and unpredictable, prompting us to consider how we find self-definition in conversations with intimate friends. 


Kaari Upson (1970–2021) was born in San Bernardino, California, and based in Los Angeles and New York. Solo shows include Deste Foundation, Athens (2022), Kunsthalle Basel (2019), Kunstverein Hannover (2019), New Museum, New York (2017) and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2007). Recent and forthcoming group exhibitions include Henry Art Gallery, Seattle (2022), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2022), Cleveland Museum of Art (2021), Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark (2021), Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2020), 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia (2019), Aspen Art Museum (2019), Marta Herford Museum, Herford, Germany (2018), 15th Istanbul Biennial (2017), 2017 Whitney Biennial, Aïshti Foundation, Beirut, Lebanon (2015-16), The High Line, New York (2015), Rubell Family Collection, Miami (2015), Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2014), CAPC Musée d’art contemporain, Bordeaux, France (2014) and Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA (2013). Her work is also currently included in The Milk of Dreams, the 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia (2022), curated by Cecilia Alemani.


Special thanks to Sprüth Magers. This screening is presented in conjunction with the exhibition never, never ever, never in my life, never in all my born days, never in all my life, never on view through October 15 at Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles. 


Frame Rate is LAND’s screening series, presenting film, video, and moving image works in site-specific contexts. Reflecting the diverse ways contemporary artists engage with visual culture, Frame Rate allows audiences intimate access to artists’ works and creative process. Unlike conventional formats, Frame Rate invites artists to propose and present new work, works-in-progress or ideas that comprise the multifaceted influences informing their creative practice.

LAND’s 2022 exhibitions are made possible with lead support from the Offield Family Foundation and the Jerry and Terri Kohl Family Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Fran and Ray Stark Foundation, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Department of Arts and Culture, the LA Arts Recovery Fund, Wilhelm Family Foundation, and LAND’s Nomadic Council. Special thanks to Artist Sponsors Karen Hillenburg, Brenda Potter, Abby Pucker, Jay and Deanie Stein Foundation Trust, and the Poncher Family Foundation.

LAND is a member-supported organization. Support LAND’s free, public programming by becoming a member today.