DC Media

Kate Gilmore, Top Drawer
September 16 - November 13, 2021

Opening event on Thursday, September 23, 6 – 8 pm


David Castillo presents Kate Gilmore: Top Drawer in the DC Media space, a gallery dedicated to the exhibition of moving image works.


Shot beginning to end in one take, Top Drawer is the outcome and document of a performance where Gilmore heaves forty plaster cubes—one by one—into the top drawer of an oversized bureau. The cubes are heavy, cumbersome, and we can see as the artist struggles with them, we can hear their weighty thud as she drops them onto the ground or each other. Gilmore pants and sweats through it, and as she arduously slots each cube into place, red paint spills—like blood, sweat, tears—from behind the hinged doors of the bureau.


Western constructs and divisions of labor are at the center of Gilmore’s practice; she deconstructs work, breaks it down into its component parts, and lays it bare for her audience. In so doing, the artist reveals the absurdity and ceremony encoded within labor; its arbitrary nature and drudgery; and the choreographies that are followed—knowingly and not—while carrying out acts of work. In the legacy of body art and endurance performance of the 1960s and 70s, Gilmore’s body is often the locus of the questions and interventions that take place across her pieces; she casts herself—and at times other women—as someone who toils, exerts her stamina and strength, through strenuous tasks that take a physical toll. By virtue of inhabiting the body of a woman, and often wearing a dress and heels in her performances, Gilmore’s pieces interrogate the curious criteria by which labor is split and segregated in society along a gender binary.


Top Drawer similarly examines hierarchies of labor and its outputs. In struggling to place the plaster blocks in the bureau’s top row of drawers, Gilmore insinuates how certain kinds of work—manual labor, service professions, and the kinds of jobs that are culturally classified as being “women’s work”—are often looked down upon, stigmatized, considered less skilled and less worthy of sustainable compensation. Reflexively, the performance can also be read as a commentary on the hierarchical nature of the art world and the ways in which artworks are qualified and quantified in markets and institutions. There are particular media that are privileged over others, and as Gilmore lifts each white cube to the top of the bureau, she suggests that it is those artworks that best fit the white cube model—Western art, pieces that follow in the legacy of the art historical canon—that ascend to the heights of notability and success.


Kate Gilmore was born in Washington D.C. in 1975 and lives and works in New York, NY. Her work has been presented in solo exhibitions at institutions including The Everson Museum, Syracuse, NY; The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT; MoCA Cleveland, Cleveland, OH; Public Art Fund, Bryant Park, New York, NY; Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, PA; Contemporary Art Center, Cincinnati, OH, and many others. She participated in the 2010 Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; The Moscow Biennial, Moscow, Russia; and in two iterations of PS1 Greater New York, MoMA/PS1, New York, NY. Gilmore is the recipient of honors and awards including the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, New York, NY; Rauschenberg Residency Award, Rauschenberg Foundation, Captiva, FL; Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome; The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award, New York, NY; Art Matters Grant, New York, NY; Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Award for Artistic Excellence, New York, NY; the Franklin Furnace Fund for Performance, New York, NY; “In the Public Realm”, Public Art Fund, New York, NY; New York Foundation for The Arts Fellowship, New York, NY, and many others. Her work is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA; Rose Art Museum, Waltham, MA; Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL. Gilmore is currently an Associate Professor of Art and Design at Purchase College, SUNY, Purchase, NY. She earned her MFA from the School of Visual Arts, New York, NY in 2002 and her Bachelor’s degree from Bates College, Lewiston, ME in 1997.