The Kaplan Twins
The Kaplan Twins are artists based in Los Angeles known for their provocative paintings that focus on topics such as celebrity, social media, sexuality, and pop culture. We had a chance to sit down with Allie and Lexi Kaplan to learn more about their work and what motivates them as artists.
Your art has been very provocative, which means that you both have clearly been effective in starting a conversation in the art world about the combination of sexuality, celebrity, and fine art. How do you think your work has changed the narrative in fine art?
A: I think what we’re doing is just super different, I guess. In that sense, it is all about generating a conversation, talking about what’s relevant. What we see on social media, what we hear people talking about.
L: I think it’s important for us to look at what’s happening in the world. What’s happening now, or in our generation, or what’s happening in the news or social media. For us to comment on that through visuals, through engaging pieces that people are then able to chime in on and and say “OK, this is how I feel.”
A: And recognizable moments and just being able to look at our work and say “Oh, I know what this is. Let’s talk about it and dive deeper.”
L: We will never tell anyone how they should feel about something.
Now that you have started a conversation in the art world, what kinds of things do you want to comment on next and start a conversation on?
A: I think it’s always changing. When we painted the series of celebrity nudes those initial photos were never intended for the public and they were never intended to get out there. But, in the moment, all those women felt beautiful and confident and they just felt sexy and wanted to take these photos and that was kind of taken away from them once they were leaked. Then there was all of this slut shaming, like “this girl’s this, this girl’s that.” Whatever. So we were like, let’s just take these and make them into beautiful pieces of art and have a totally different conversation around it.
L: And also to get people thinking about, like, what does that mean to have that taken from you? We put ourselves into that conversation and included our own images to show that it’s ok to feel confident and sexy and do you and not have anyone shame you or make you feel bad about that.
Social media plays a large role in both your work and personas. One thing that stands out is your mom’s over-the-top personality, as seen in some of your posts. How do you think her personality has impacted your work?
A: I think, she’s just so much fun and has always encouraged us to do what we want and to follow our dreams. Her parents kind of forced her to get an accounting degree and not follow the career path that she really wanted. So, for us, she was like “go do whatever you want. If you’re doing what you love, then it’s not really work, you’re just having fun, and the success will follow.” That’s kind of how we viewed it. She’s super supportive. She loves to go out with us and have fun. She’s also very open, so nothing really shocks us. So, we kind of like to turn it on it’s head and be like “Is this shocking? How does everyone else feel about this?”
What is your opinion of how social media has impacted the art world in recent years?
A: I think social media has made it easier for artists to show their work. People spend so much time just looking at things on their phones, online, on instagram. Before that, if you wanted to look at art you’d have to go to a gallery, a museum, a physical space to view art. Now, we can find art and artist on our explore page. We can even do a virtual tour of the MoMa from our laptops at home.
L: Artists also have more a physical presence. Instead of it just being about the art or the object its also about the artist. Who that personal is. Their persona, their personality, etc.
Your work focuses a lot on the concept of celebrity. Since moving to LA, how has your perception and thoughts on the concept of ‘celebrity’ changed?
L: I just feel like what we’re doing makes more sense since we’re in LA now.
A: And because we put everything on social media and LA is super about celebrity culture and Hollywood.
L: We’re just reflecting on what we see. Because we live here, it’s something that we like to talk about. I think if we lived in New York it would be a different conversation.
What has been the craziest experience you both have had since embarking on this adventure as artists in LA?
L: I think the craziest thing that I think about is that we moved here 2 years ago and we literally started painting in a storage closet. We were like “Ok, if we’re going to be artists, then we just need to put all our stuff out there,” and we just started cranking out work. We kind of built it from nothing.
A: We graduated from college, we had this idea, and we just went for it. I don’t think there has been one moment, but the whole thing has just been crazy and exciting. It’s crazy looking back 2 years and seeing where we are now. We’re not where we want to be yet…
L: But, you can never think about it in terms of feeling like you’re not successful or a failure because you’re not where you want to be. You need to look at the whole picture, and say “Look at where I was 2 years ago. This is crazy.”
A: Nothing is impossible. It’s hard work. It’s a lot of believing in yourself because no one else will, but it’s totally achievable.
What is your advice for other young artists looking to start pursuing their craft?
A: That would be it, honestly. You just have to go for it. You just have to put your work out there.You have to really hustle and really work hard because no one else is going to work as hard for you as you. So, if you don’t believe in yourself, who the hell else is going to?
When you graduated from NYU, did you know that you wanted to come out to LA to pursue painting?
L: I think it all kind of played itself out.
A: I kind of wanted to move to LA before we went to NYU. We went to NYU, and I was like “that’s it, time to move to LA.”
L: It all just kind of happened. Right time. Right place. We were like “Ok, we don’t want to be in New York anymore. We want to try something new.”
A: We grew up on the east coast. We always wanted to move to sunny California.
How long on average, does each piece take to make? What kind of materials are used in crafting your paintings?
A: We use oil paint. It just depends on how big it is, what else we have going on. If were in the studio crushing like 7 hours every day, the piece will take about 2 weeks (without weekends). If we’re sitting on the piece for a little bit, it’ll take a month. It’s not really like how long it takes, it’s just getting it done.
L: I always tell her, she’ll be like “is it done? I’m not happy with this part.’ And I’m like to everyone else, no one is inspecting that one little tiny...
A: I get very very specific. I get a little particular with everything that I’m doing.
L: Then we go over each other’s work, all the time also.
A: It’s a nightmare.
Do you usually have multiple pieces in the works at one time?
A: We don’t.
L: We usually have one piece going at a time. Usually, I’ll take one area, then she’ll take one area. We’ll finish it, then well start something new. I feel like it we have more than one piece going on then we’ll never finish it.
L: I wouldn’t be able to focus.
Are you both generalists, or do you each have specialities?
A: We both have specialities.
L: I mean at this point, we know what our strong suits are. Allie will be like, “Lexi, fuzz this edge” or “blend this.”
A: I’m not good at blending. When the paint is a little dry, I can’t do that. I know that. I’m better with colors.
L: We’re a good team
A: Yeah we’re a good team.