Seven years after the breakup of Sonic Youth, the godmother of grunge has carved out the unconventional career in music and visual art she always hoped for.
Kim Gordon is standing on a wooden platform in Reena Spaulings Fine Art, a gallery on the second floor of an unassuming building in Manhattan’s Chinatown that is rumored to have once housed a brothel. She is surrounded by white plinths displaying painted small-scale sculptures — upended cans and funny-shaped boxes — all fabricated from cardboard by the Swiss artist Peter Fischli. The work seems to be, in part, a vaguely Duchampian commentary on the line between everyday object and valuable sculpture. “It’s almost kind of a takeoff of art for people who are afraid of art,” Gordon appraises. She carefully makes her way around the room, and it’s hard to ignore the symbolism: The co-founder of the groundbreaking experimental rock band Sonic Youth, the godmother of grunge, the feminist icon, is quite literally wandering around a field of pedestals.
It is an unseasonably hot and muggy June day — New York at its most New York — but Gordon, languid and cool, seems to exist within her own ecosystem. At 65, she wears her choppy blonde hair in girlish bangs and has the surfer drawl of a native Southern Californian. A few years ago, after three and a half decades on the East Coast and the thunderous breakup of both her band and her long marriage to Thurston Moore, her collaborator in Sonic Youth, Gordon moved back to her childhood hometown, Los Angeles.
Images: Photograph of Kim Gordon by Craig McDean; An installation view of “Design Office with Kim Gordon – Since 1980” at White Columns, New York, in 2013, credit Jason Mandella.