The Making of Urban Agitpop / Hyperallergic



CHICAGO — The self-proclaimed title of “urban pop artist” suits Margarita Korol well. As the one-woman artist/president of her creative practice, Korol blatantly straddles the world of commercial, pop, and fine art, and she’s as much at home in being distributed at Occupy Wall Street’s Zuccotti Park as she is in a new video for Chicago-based rapper Chella H. Is it pop art, or pop propaganda, or does it even matter? The phrase “What Would Warhol Say?” (WWWS) comes to mind, and then I wonder if my categories of what makes something art need to once again become even broader. For example, Sophia Wallace’s project Cliteracy: 100 Natural Laws, in which the artist plastered the 100 laws of the clit across New York City, comes to mind. Is that urban pop art, subversive feminist messaging, or straight up clit propaganda? Like Korol’s illustrations, this slippery slope is one reason this type of work is worth revisiting.

Her work focuses mostly on commercial illustration, book covers, teaser videos, artwork for albums and music-focused endeavors, and publications such as Bluecanvas Magazine. Her aesthetic comes out of being the daughter of a Soviet Jewish refugee growing up in America, and is very much influenced by the curious commingling of hip-hop and Ukrainian cultures. Korol quotes John F. Kennedy, whose ideas are very much in line with her philosophy of being an artist: “If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.” Korol’s work exists best outside of the white cube and on the streets. We got into a conversation via email about her projects, meeting in the middle to see what truths we could arrive at.

Alicia Eler: Tell me about yourself and your aesthetic, which seems most influenced by your upbringing as the daughter of (a Soviet Jewish) refugee in the U.S. What does being “American” mean, to you? What do you think of the American Dream? How is your work influenced by American hip-hop/rap and Ukrainian culture? 

Margarita Korol: I’m an artist at my design studio Urban Pop Art Projects, mainly based in Chicago, but also in NYC and LA. I run off to other cities every couple of months for exhibits and projects with musicians and publications. I feel privileged to be able to own the artist identity, since had my mother’s family not fought as activists to leave the Soviet Union, I’d probably have to work as an engineer or a hooker.

Read the full interview on Hyperallergic: