Art Omi presents $ELL YOUR $ELF, the first New York institutional solo exhibition of visionary artist Pippa Garner (American, b. 1942), on view from June 24 to October 29, 2023. For more than five decades, Garner has embedded her work in the world, often realizing projects outside the confines of galleries, museums, or the boundaries of what has been strictly defined as art. Her works take the form of mail-order catalogs, classified ads, garments, cars, and performances on the streets or on television. Garner offers deviant solutions for tackling everyday problems in post-Fordist America. Directly addressing the anxiety, alienation, and paranoia that courses through the office and home, Garner proposes devices to deflect, subvert, or retool the mounting pressures of productivity and visibility today.
$ELL YOUR $ELF underscores Garner’s interest in how self is commodified and instrumentalized in today’s world. Camouflaging her work in the shiny optimism of a sales pitch, Garner expresses pessimism, ambivalence, and exhaustion. Knowing how the language of liberation is co-opted by commercial forces, Garner offers a rejoinder, cloaking herself within the machinery of the apparatus in an attempt to trip its circuit. Garner solicits the viewer to embrace pleasure, kink, and the perversion of mass-produced products as tools for altering working conditions and conceptualizations of self.
Originally trained as a car designer, Garner was kicked out of the ArtCenter College of Design’s transportation design program in 1969 for presenting a car morphing into a human body. Undeterred by her expulsion, Garner conceived of her first major car work in 1973, Backwards Car, a 1959 Chevy with its exterior rotated 180 degrees so it appeared to face the wrong way as it drove. In a gesture at once daredevil stunt and conceptual probe, Garner scaled San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge in the work. She was finessing an important principle: how to follow the letter of the law while utterly defying it in spirit. Garner was not alone: her friends and collaborators during this period–including artists Ed Ruscha, Chris Burden, and the collective Ant Farm–used the automobile to interrogate the language of American commerce, machismo, and the slippery boundaries separating art and life.
In the mid-eighties, Garner began gender-hacking with hormones—a process that she considers a conceptual artwork—marking an extension of her practice from twenty years of altering cars, garments, and consumer products to using her own body as raw material. Much of her work has been in infiltrating mass media, from classified ads to The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. In the eighties, she released several artist books designed to impersonate mail order catalogs, including her most famous, the Better Living Catalog (1982). From the early aughts to the present, as Garner’s vision has waned, she has maintained a practice of producing a t-shirt a day, using iron-on letters to tinker with popular phrases in ways that reclaim their lusty potential and thumb her nose at assimilationist narratives.
The exhibition premieres Haulin’ Ass! (2023) Garner’s newest custom car unveiled on the fiftieth anniversary of her first major car work, Backwards Car (1973-1974). Commissioned by Art Omi, Haulin’ Ass! is a 2003 red Ford Ranger removed from its chassis, rotated, and welded back together so it appears to face the wrong way as it drives. Fully functional and replete with super-sized truck nuts, it will make appearances in the Hudson Valley and New York City this summer and fall.
The exhibition is curated by Sara O’Keeffe, Senior Curator, with Guy Weltchek, Curatorial Assistant.
Pippa Garner studied transportation design at the ArtCenter College of Design in Los Angeles. Garner has shown at ICA LA (1980), MOCA LA (1985), and performed at the Whitney Museum of American Art with Chip Lord (1980). She appeared in character as a guest on talk shows including The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The Merv Griffin Show, and Monster Garage. Recently, Garner has had solo exhibitions at JOAN (2021), Kunstverein München (2022), Kunsthalle Zürich (2023), Frac Lorraine (2023), and Art Omi (2023). Garner lives and works in Long Beach, California.
Published in conjunction with Garner’s first institutional exhibition in New York, Art Omi and Pioneer Works Press are co-publishing $ELL YOUR $ELF, a kaleidoscopic introduction to Garner’s practice featuring her previously unpublished writing including personal accounts of her gender-transition-as-performance, with newly commissioned texts by contemporaries and admirers including Nayland Blake, House of Ladosha, Chip Lord, Ed Ruscha, and McKenzie Wark. Featuring hundreds of never-before-published images of Garner’s drawings, garments, classified ads, and more, it brings into focus the artist’s singular approach to addressing—and parodying—the contradictions of commodity fetishism from the 1960s to today.
Embracing pleasure, kink, and the perversion of mass-produced products, Garner’s work imagines ways to restructure environments, everyday devices, and conceptualizations of self. For much of her career, Garner has embedded her work in the world, often realizing projects outside the confines of galleries or museums, continually challenging what is strictly defined as art. This richly illustrated publication underscores Garner as a provocative and indispensable voice of our time.
Pre-order your copy here
Now available online and onsite: artist editions by Pippa Garner from her Shirtstorm series released by Art Omi in conjunction with the $ell Your $elf exhibition. Limited Edition of 100 per design.
Pippa Garner: I'm With Me
Through October 22, 2023
Presented by OCDChinatown in collaboration with Art Omi, Pippa Garner: I’m With Me showcases Garner’s approach to life as advertisement and art at OCDChinatown’s Space in Manhattan. It includes contributions by Eckhaus Latta and a roster of outstanding tattoo artists offering permanent modifications of Garner’s prolific illustrations.
Double Your Pleasure: A Pippa Garner Book Launch
Wed, Oct 24 | 7-10 PM
Join Pioneer Works, Primary Information, and Art Omi for an extravagant evening—part tailgating party, part book launch—celebrating the release of $ELL YOUR $ELF (published by Pioneer Works Press and Art Omi) and Better Living Catalog (published by Primary Information) from visionary artist Pippa Garner at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn. $ELL YOUR $ELF is the first publication to span Garner’s work from the 1960s to the present and Better Living Catalog is a facsimile publication of Garner’s 1982 cult classic.
Art Omi’s programs are made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. Additional program support is provided by the Ruth Foundation for the Arts and Furthermore: a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund.