Exene Karros

Born 1995

Lives and works in Philadelphia, PA

The ubiquity and ambivalence of corporate iconography, the banality of violence and pleasure, the vacancy of identity articulated through narrow registers, and the thrill of transgressive appropriation linger in the compact, demonstrative, and unexpectedly lovely paintings of Exene Karros. Chief among her fixations is a quintessentially American urban experience, one suffused with late capitalist malaise, and remarkably circumspect in the cultivation of a semiotic toolkit. Like a Virgin Mary winking from a piece of moldy Wonder Bread, her pictures chart a strained but rigorous attempt to make meaning from the most vacant forms, identifying joy and pleasure in debasement. Karros' work confounds the current apparatus of representational painting by foregrounding its demonstrative form. Her paintings are tools, and her personal symbology forms the basis for a series of cryptic flow charts on flat gray grounds of gunmetal, cement, putty, Coffee Mate-taupe. Her imagery is immediately iconic and mundane: Abraham Lincoln, Statue of Liberty, The Cross, Dove, Toy Soldiers, Livery Vehicles, Mr. Peanut. Her symbols are rendered with a labored precision that is both humorous, melancholy, and inflected with a desire for a kind of divine encounter, looking to these things as idols, as tokens of some sign of a future. The biggest thing lurking in Karros' blunt and punchy paintings is ultimately, surprisingly, hope.


Daydreaming pressed against a fence

July 14 - Sept 11, 2023

God strike me down or at least pay attention

Sept 10 - Oct 12, 2022

Selected Works


Bachelor of Fine Arts, Painting
Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI

Solo & Two Person

Life On Earth
Whaam! Gallery, New York, NY
Exene Karros & Ed Paschke
Airfield Art, Kingston, NY


Harkawik, Los Angeles, CA
Film Noir
The Bunker Art Space, Miami, FL
Hell March, curated by Colin Ross
Eyes Never Sleep, New York, NY
All Roads Lead to More Roads
The Bunker Art Space, Miami, FL
A New Museum’s Triennial
Fall River Museum of Contemporary Art, MA
The Symbolists: Les Fleurs Du Mal
Hesse Flatow, New York, NY
White Lillies
Thierry Goldberg Gallery, Online
Untitled Exhibition
Sinkhole Project, curated by Joe Speier, Baltimore, MD
More Than A Feeling
Whaam! Gallery, Miami, FL
There Are A Range Of Things That Can Bring You Joy
Mery Gates Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
Senior Painting Exhibition
Woods-Gerry Gallery, RISD, Providence, RI
Cars and Trees
Benson Hall Gallery, RISD, Providence, RI
Late Night Pundit
Friendly Gallery, Providence, RI

Public Collections

Rubell Museum, Miami, FL
The Bunker Artspace, West Palm Beach, FL