The word kitsch, which originally described inexpensive but popular drawings and images, is thought to have emerged from 1860s German art markets, though its exact etymological roots are unknown. Some think it comes from the German word kitschen—“smear”—or the verb verkitschen—“to cheapen.” Each theory points up a central aspect of kitsch, a certain lowliness. In the 19th century, kitsch was associated with the sentimental. For this very reason modernists disdained it as a cheap currency for emotion in art. Though the definition of kitsch has changed over time, its association with taste has endured. This exhibition draws together 13 artists whose works use kitsch to examine how taste is shaped by class, which itself has become splintered by status. From Nick Cave to Olia Lialina, these artists use kitsch to move the line separating high and low culture, and to illustrate the radical potential of embracing so-called poor taste. —C.J.F.
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