Interview and Slideshow: Jeremy Kost's Exhibition, 'Of An Instance'


By Max Berlinger

The photographer talks about his latest show, which opens Friday, May 4, in New York City.

It's 2 p.m. on a temperate Monday when we stopped by the gallery in Far-West Chelsea where Jeremy Kost's latest exhibition will debut. The walls are white, if not a bit scuffed, with framed photos, larger silkscreen paintings, and overlapping collage works leaning against the walls. Kost—who made a name for himself through his fly-on-the-wall Polaroids of famous (and infamous) figures as they frollicked through New York's simultaneously seedy and glamorous nightlife—is conferring with Eric Shiner, the Director of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, who is curating the show. Together with the help of Hugo Boss, Kost's latest collection of works, titled Of an Instance, is both a retrospective of his career thus far, and a comparison to the correlating themes of his work—celebrity, drag culture, the male form—and those of Warhol's (selected Polaroids from Warhol are also featured). We were able to trap the busy duo for a few moments to discuss the show.

SLIDESHOW: Click here for a slideshow of exclusive images from Of an Instance

Out: So, how did the three entities—Hugo Boss, the Andy Warhol Museum, and you, Jeremy—come together for this particular exhibition?
Eric Shiner: Well, we’ve known each other since 2004, early 2005.
Jeremy Kost: We met through a mutual friend. Eric was a freelance curator at the time and put together my first quote-unquote show—and I say quote-unquote because it was the gallery of the Soho Grand—but I think it was a pivotal moment for me. For example, a friend of Eric’s, who is a curator at ICP, came to see the show and I ended up in the ICP Triennial two and a half years later.

For us, we wanted it to be clear that it isn’t a nepotistic thing. Oftentimes, you hear a lot about how artists get a show because they slept with the curator, or because they’re close friends. You hear rumors, but for us it was really important that things be done the right way.

Hugo Boss was my one of my first sponsors, and really helped me make art a full-time thing. Without their support from the very beginning I don’t know if I would be in the position I’m in today. They have such and amazing history with arts patronage—like the Hugo Boss Prize at the Guggenheim. To have them involved in this, both with their history with my career and their arts patronage, is really significant.

That’s an interesting point, one I wanted to get to, the sort of love affair between fashion and art. Your work certainly demonstrates it. What do you see now as the legacy of art and fashion being so intimately intertwined? 

Eric: Historically, so many fashion designers worked with the best photographers to do formal portraits of their models and clothing. Fashion and photography definitely fit together, and then you throw Warhol in the mix. Andy was obviously always making sure he knew what was going on in fashion and hanging out with the most fashionable people, starting with Baby Jane Holzer and Edie Sedgwick in the ’60s and then moving forward with Liza Minnelli and that whole Halston crowd.
Jeremy: Not to mention, his first job was as a fashion illustrator.
Eric: That’s how he made his living during the 1950s. He wanted to be close to anyone at the cutting edge of fashion. I think that Jeremy is a logical extension of that—catching the stars, but also what they’re wearing, is a very big element in his work.
Jeremy: Especially the collage work, the abstraction of clothing. But, I think fashion is just drag for women.

Jeremy: If you really think about it…furs, and all these layers.
Eric: You’re always performing—no matter who you are—by what you put on your body. Drag queens, I think, look at the fashion industry more than anything for inspiration—either for how to dress themselves or to react against it. So, they’re sort of going against the grain of some drag queens, especially Sharon [Needles].
Jeremy: My drag queens tend to be freaks, more outrageous.

Do you think that’s artifice or an outward expression of who they truly are?
Jeremy: I think there’s that, but it’s who I’m drawn to.
Eric: And, of course, there’s a very long history of camp—going against the grain of popular culture and critiquing it as they go.

Do you think things like RuPaul’s Drag Race has mainstreamed the subcutlure that you’ve always followed?

Eric: I think it has always been underground. When John Waters put Divine in his films, they were completely underground, hovering between art and popular culture. Even now, Pink Flamingos isn’t necessarily well-known to the general public. I think that RuPaul and especially RuPaul’s Drag Race has opened up the aesthetic of drag to a much broader audience.