The Kaplan Twins on Nudity, Narcissism, and Celebrities
Artwork: “It’s Britney, Bitch” by the Kaplan Twins.
The Kaplan twins are NSFW. The Los Angeles-based 23-year-old painters are gaining notoriety for their provocative interpretations of nudity, narcissism, and celebrities. From That’s Hot, which depicts Paris Hilton performing fellatio to Chocolate Covered Strawberries, which involves butt cheeks and fruit inserted somewhere it doesn’t belong, the Kaplan twins combine fine art with amateur porn.
Both of the Kaplan twins majored in studio art at New York University. Initially, they worked individually but used one another so often as muses that they decided to collaborate, and have been doing so since their junior year of college. Their Make Me Famous exhibition is now on view at De Re Gallery, Los Angeles.
At the start of our interview, Lexi and Allie Kaplan insisted that they would be indistinguishable over the phone. In addition to identical tones of voice, they frequently spoke in unison or over one another, and therefore asked to be identified here as one.
Crave: Why the focus on nudity in your body of work?
Kaplan Twins: The focus on nudity is for a couple reasons. First, it’s something that we genuinely enjoy painting. Another reason is we love to think about celebrity exploitation, especially with leaked selfies. We live in this society where everyone’s constantly putting their private moments out there for the public. So with something like this, it’s a private moment that wasn’t meant to be public but now it is public. We like thinking about that a lot and playing with that idea.
Also, in regards to female sexuality, we feel like, as a society, we like to obsess about female sexuality and then shame it and oppress it at the same time. Also, we just find the female body beautiful and we have fun painting it.
Have any of the celebrities in your paintings responded to them?
We haven’t talked to any of them personally, but we think they’re aware of them. When our show comes out, we’d love to see their opinion on it.
You’ve said in previous interviews that you both want to be famous, but what about respect in the arts community? Is that important to you, too?
Yeah! We feel like the two shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. We obviously want to be known for what we’re doing but we’re not doing it just for the sake of fame. We want people to know our art and love our art. We consider ourselves artists but also creatives. Art is just one outlet of that. The art world a lot of times is put in its own sort of world and we’re trying to break out of that stigma and do something where it’s not just like, “Oh, it’s the art world” and entertain things that are more relevant to our time and recognizable.
Have fans’ or buyers’ responses to your artwork ever felt creepy to either of you?
Um…in the beginning we would get some weird responses but I think everyone always has an opinion on something and at the end of the day you really can’t control it. But I think now, like with the fan base and follower number growing, people are more accustomed to what we’re doing and understanding it’s not just about the nakedness. There’s more to it than just that.
Given that your body of work is based on nudes of yourselves and celebrities, which might change or become irrelevant over time, how sustainable do you think your brand is?
We’re two years out of college. We have so much time to continue working. There’s room for us to grow and themes to change. That will develop over time. We like to reflect on what’s happening now. When you think about music, an artist can’t keep making the same music forever. For us, this is something that we’re super into now but there’s obviously so much more that we can do.
You’re from the East Coast but moved to the West Coast. Why did you make that change and how is the art scene different in Los Angeles?
The art scene out here is growing. A lot of people our age are starting to move out here. We spent four years in New York, so on some level we wanted a little bit of change and to explore something different. Also, you have the entertainment industry out here. Hollywood is the hub of entertainment, so that was kind of the appeal to us. New York is fashion-heavy and art-heavy, but out here, there’s an opportunity for us to disrupt that feeling that art is in its own community. Maybe there’s something new for us to do out here.
Do you imagine that you’ll ever work separately?
Um…I don’t know. Right now, we love working together. When I come to the studio, I hate working alone. I feel like there’s something missing. When you kind of have that feeling where you’re talking to yourself in your own head, like “Does this look okay? Do I need to change this?” Instead of internalizing it, we talk to each other about it. Being able to have that conversation is so amazing.