Allie & Lexi Kaplan are flipping the switch on feminism & sexuality, and disrupting the traditional art scene with an unapologetic Millennial perspective. The Kaplan Twins approach situations with bravery and have cultivated a public persona to brazenly take control of their narrative. When the art world tells them, ‘not that way’ they paint their backsides and sit on the idea of ‘can’t.’ Their art is a parodical pastiche of Instagram fame, a celebration of the female form, and a cheeky commentary on celebrity culture. We had the pleasure of spending the day in their studio to watch a project come to life, and we’re excited to witness the evolution of their talents.
Stay Curious: This is an audio interview, but we transcribed it below. When turning sound to words, we do what we can to make it readable and authentic. Sometimes the two mediums may not always line up, but we figured you’d rather it make sense without all the “ums” and “likes” – Enjoy. Boye Fajinmi: I have the Kaplan Twins here today. How are you guys doing?
Allie Kaplan & Lexi Kaplan: We’re good!
Boye: I love that! Can you tell me who you are and what you’re about?
Allie: We’re 25 years old. We’re both artists. We go by the Kaplan Twins.
Both: That’s our name!
Lexi: Twin name.
Allie: We are originally from New Jersey, so that’s why you hear the Jersey accent.
Lexi: Only sometimes.
Allie: Only sometimes! And we both went to NYU for art. We studied studio art.
Lexi: Majored in painting.
Allie: We graduated in 2015 and moved right out to LA. after we graduated.
Boye: That’s awesome. Why’d you decide to come to LA?
Lexi: We were both in the art scene in New York for a long time, and we felt like we wanted to be somewhere where we could disrupt the art scene. LA is still emerging. New York is set in it’s ways a little bit, and we wanted to merge art with entertainment. Out here there’s lots of entertainment.
Allie: Throughout school we both had experiences working within the art world. I did internships. I worked at an art gallery. I worked at Christie’s for a bit.
Lexi: I was at the New Museum.
Allie: I think we moved out here because we wanted to see what it was about. Try something new. We started by posting photos of us and our art on social media and it kind of took off from there. I think it was really important to show who we are.
Lexi: Not just what we do.
Allie: Not just the art. Exactly.
“We wanted to be somewhere where we could disrupt the art scene. LA is still emerging… and we wanted to merge art with entertainment. Out here there’s lots of entertainment.”
Boye: Gotcha. So, you’re out here you’re doing the art thing and it sounds like you guys are doing pretty well. What was the path from coming here, fish out of water, to where you are now? You’re painting pieces for a lot of really prominent people. There are a lot of artists out here living that grind and hustle. What was that like to get to where you are?
Lexi: We definitely had that grind and hustle.
Allie: We still do! It’s still always a hustle.
Lexi: Yeah. When we first moved out here our studio was in a storage closet.
Allie: It was in the basement of a garage. There were no windows.
Lexi: It was an apartment building garage. It was underground where the trash room was. We didn’t have windows.
Allie: There was no natural light. It was so small.
Lexi: No air. But, we just needed a place to crank out a lot of work. I mean, we obviously created a lot of work when we were in school, but I think as soon as we moved out here we realized–
Allie: That if we wanted to really pursue it and go for we had to start making so much more. So, we needed a space for that.
Lexi: We also became super interested in celebrity culture, pop culture and social media. And I think that was obviously because we were also putting a lot of artwork on Instagram at the time. We started posting every day, building our body work, and then it just kind of grew from there.
Boye: Yeah, it’s interesting you mention celebrity and social media. A lot of your work caters to pop culture, and a lot of your clients are celebrities like the Kardashians.
Lexi: We fall into this circle through building our brand on Instagram.
Allie: We definitely reach out to a lot of people.
Lexi: We do. Khloe (Kardashian) has a denim line, Good American, which is also now activewear. I remember they reached out to us when they were just getting going, and they were like, “We really love what you guys are doing and what you stand for. We’d love to have you be a part of the brand.” And, for whatever reason, it fell through. So, Allie and I were talking one day and we said to each other–
Allie: ‘We’re so upset this never happened. We really wanted to be a part of it. We really wanted to do it.’
Both: So, we reached out ourselves.
Lexi: And we kind of just made it happen that way. We’re making a painting right now for Khloe Kardashian and Kris Jenner.
Allie: I think we should just make one for all of them.
Lexi: For all the Kardashians?
Lexi: We made Kim…we made a self-portrait of her.
Lexi: She’s more than welcome to have it if she wants it!
Lexi: But, you know, I watch the TV show. I’m a fan of theirs. You can’t really knock their hustle. I think what they do is great. So, we reached out to Khloe and said ‘We’d love to make you a painting. You can’t be afraid to just reach out.
Allie: Right. You can’t wait for people to knock on your door. If you want something you gotta make it happen for yourself.
Boye: Who are some other clients that you guys have dealt with?
Allie: We just did a painting for Meghan Trainor.
Lexi: We’re making one for Quavo.
Boye: Nice! Quavo!
Allie: Migos Migos. Everytime we tell our mom about that she’s like, “Did you make a painting for Cuervo yet?” I’m like, “MOM, it’s Quavo. It’s not the tequila. It’s the guy.”
Lexi: We’re gonna make one for Gigi Gorgeous.
Allie: Yes. Love her.
Lexi: Tommy Dorfman wants one. We definitely need to make him one.
“You can’t wait for people to knock on your door. If you want something you gotta make it happen for yourself.”
Allie: Yeah, it’s just about going out and meeting people and hustling. It is a lot of work, and we came out here not knowing anyone.
Lexi: Right. I think a lot of the reason why it works, though, is because our work is tailored towards pop culture, Millennials, and what you do see on Instagram.
Allie: It’s relatable.
Lexi: Yeah, it’s relatable.
Allie: They’re meme paintings.
Lexi: We don’t want to isolate ourselves from the art world, but we also want to make art relatable to people our age who can just appreciate what we’re doing.
Both: Even if you can’t buy it.
Boye: That’s interesting. I’m curious, what’s your perspective on art in general today? You have different pop culture artists through the ages with Warhol, Basquiat. I’d consider Ai Wei Wei a pop culture artist, but he’s from a different country.
Lexi: Murakami, even.
Boye: Yeah. Do you have any thoughts on art, in general, that you want people to know about or that you’ve been thinking about lately?
Allie: I think when people think of fine art their minds immediately go to the work itself, and it’s sometimes hard to associate the work with the creative; the person who made it. So, I think when you’re talking about Warhol, Basquiat or Keith Haring your mind can put —
Both: A face to the name.
Allie: I think with a lot of work now, especially in galleries, you go in there and you’re like, “Well this is cool, but who the hell made it?” What we’re trying to do is show people who we are as much as we show them the work that we make. That’s kind of what we’re trying to change – to put a face of the artist to the name.
“Rather than just going out and meeting your friends at a bar and grabbing a drink, you can also come hang out and do cryotherapy along with other things that are health and wellness related”
Boye: That’s cool.
Allie: We always say it’s kind of like music. Imagine if you’re going to see a concert, your favorite musician, but you’re just in the stadium.
Lexi: You’re just listening. You don’t see them.
Allie: If you just know the music, but you don’t know the person behind the music, you can’t connect with it on a personal level.
Boye: Yeah, I can totally see that. One thing I’ve noticed about your art is there’s a lot of sexuality in it. I’m interested to know why and how it’s been expressing yourself in that way?
Lexi: I think it’s just one of our ideas…we always have the social media, pop culture theme in the back of our minds, and at the end of the day, sex sells. It does and it’s the truth.
Allie: And you see that all over Instagram. You see that everywhere.
Lexi: Right. It’s everywhere. So, I think we kind of play into that. And because we are aware of it, we’re taking control of the narrative. And people can say whatever they want, but at the end of the day it’s just a way for us to say, “Okay, this is the narrative that were feeding into.”
Boye: What does your mom think?
Both: Oh, mom’s a fan.
Boye: And, your mom is your manager, right?
Both: She is.
Boye: What’s your mom’s name?
Allie: Also @the_kaplan_twinsmama on Instagram.
Boye: What’s it like with your mom being your manager?
Lexi: It’s good sometimes and it’s bad sometimes. She does kill it for us and she is amazing because I think no one will work harder than family.
Allie: Or yourself. The only people who are going to have your back as much as you do–
Lexi: Are you and your family. So, it just came to a point where we wanted to be in the studio every single day painting and we couldn’t do that because we would receive so many emails. We didn’t know what to do with them.
Allie: So many opportunities, so many amazing collaborations and other artists reaching out to us–
Lexi: We let slip through our fingers.
Allie: Things that were really cool. We just wouldn’t have time to get everything going. We’d miss time in the studio. We’d forget to respond.
Lexi: We’d respond on Mondays to emails, and it would take us all day. And then they’d all come back in after like ten minutes and we are like, ‘Shit, well, now we have to do it tomorrow.’ They just kept spilling over, and we didn’t really have the time.
Allie: It was getting to be too much.
Lexi: So, we said, ‘Mom, would you want to just respond to our emails for us and take control?’
Allie: Just coordinate a little bit.
Lexi: And she did, and it’s actually the most helpful thing ever to have her.
Allie: But it’s also very stressful because at the same time…
Lexi: Oh! I live with her so not only does she manage my schedule but she also micromanages my life.
Allie: Your personal life.
Lexi: Yeah, everything. She’s like, “You got to get in the studio! You got to do this!”
Allie: And we’re like, ‘I know what I have to do! You worry about what you have to do, and we’ll worry about what we have to do!’
Lexi: From the second I open my eyes it’s not even a, “Hi, good morning!” It’s like, “You got to do this.” And it drives me crazy!
Boye: Sounds like a reality show.
Both: Oh, yeah. It should be.
Boye: I heard rumors of you guys actually filming some stuff?
Lexi: Yeah, we’re filming right now. It’s in development so keep your fingers crossed.
Boye: Anything you can let us know about?
Lexi: Um…noooo we can’t really say too much. But, I mean, I would watch it.
Boye: I appreciate that. What do you have coming up next that you can talk about?
Lexi: We are planning something for Art Basel in Miami.
Allie: That’s every year the first week of December. We’ve been going now for how long, Lexi?
Lexi: Like 10 years.
Allie: Like forever.
Lexi: Since we were babies, honestly.
Allie: Since it started.
Boye: Making art?
Lexi: We were just going to enjoy. I mean we couldn’t really enjoy ‘the scene’ so much, but we did go for the art.
Allie: Now we get to go to the parties. Now it’s fun.
Lexi: Now it’s exhausting.
Allie: Now it’s Coachella with art.
Lexi: It’s really exhausting. It’s non-stop. It’s work.
Boye: I need to go!
Both: Yeah, it’s a lot of fun.
Boye: I feel like there are a lot of brands there.
Lexi: Yeah I mean, I like that though.
Allie: I think every year it’s gotten honestly less about the art and people are just like, “What parties are going on tonight? What parties are going on tomorrow night?”
Lexi: Well, that’s cool because you have all the designers there, and then that gives us a chance to connect and collaborate, and we’d love to get into that scene too. Into that space. This year we’re with Roman Fine Art Gallery, which is in East Hampton, and also Art Angels in LA.
Allie: We just did another show with Roman Fine Art over Fourth of July weekend in Montauk.
Lexi: Yeah, in the Hamptons. This year there is a booth at SCOPE. It’s our first year of actually being in the art fair, so that’s super exciting.
Boye: Oh, wow.
Allie: We kind of missed the boat last year. We got our work in too late. But I said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll do it next year.’ So, this year we’re doing it.
Lexi: It’s exciting to grow up going to this fair every year, looking on the walls and thinking, ‘I really want my work to be up there one day. Why can’t I do that? I can do that. I’m going to do that.’ It’s very exciting for it to finally be a reality. We’re also working on a performance of some sort. We don’t really know yet. We’re going to do something with Stillhouse.
Boye: Oh, cool.
Allie: We just need to lock down a location and figure out some other little details. But we know we definitely are going to be doing something.
Boye: Is it a new series that you’re doing?
Allie: I think the performance will be like the “sat on your face” thing.
Lexi: It’s where we paint each other’s butts and sit on the canvas. We want it to be interactive. We want it to be fun. Haven’t really thought of it yet, but we’ll think of something.
Boye: I have seen that. Sitting on people’s faces. Can you tell me more about that?
Lexi: It started out as us painting famous artist faces and then painting our butts sitting on the canvas, and then it just expanded. People kept saying to us, “Can I send you my face? Can you do this, can you do that?”
Allie: So, we started saying, ‘Yeah, why not?’ One year someone wanted one of Donald Trump’s, so we made one of Trump.
Boye: But, you do it in an audience, right?
Both: Yeah, sometimes.
Lexi: For the most part we do it for an audience, but if people want to buy them that’s always something we do. It’s just more of a performance aspect for us. We let people paint our butts sometimes. We did this really fun event with Flaunt Magazine and Diesel. There was a photo booth at the event, and people would go into the photo booth and take a photo of their face, which would then be printed out onto t-shirts. At the end of the night, we painted our butts and sat on the t-shirts and everyone loved it.
Allie: And then you take the t-shirt home!
Boye: Wow. That’s fun.
Lexi: It was a lot of fun. Maybe we should do that again, Allie. Have a giant paint party.
Boye: That is actually a good idea! So, what’s your approach to the art you create? It was cool seeing you guys painting together today. Is there any sort of mantra, or anything that you live by when you’re creating pieces?
Allie: I think we just want it to be fun. We don’t really take ourselves too seriously. We just like to have a good time.
Lexi: My mom used to always say to us —
Both: “Life is a party. Shoot for the stars. You can be anything you want to be as long as you’re A good person.”
Lexi: So, we grew up on that. That’s our mantra.
Boye: That’s cool. We have a lot of people in our community who are entrepreneurs and creators themselves, and we always love to empower them. If you were to do it all over again what’s advice that you would give to yourself or someone else who is trying to get to a place where you guys are now?
Lexi: That’s a hard one..It’s definitely a rollercoaster. Sometimes it’s up and sometimes it’s down. Don’t be afraid of failing because it’s okay.
Allie: You’re going to fail.
Both: We fail.
Lexi: We’ve failed so many times, and people just don’t see the failures all the time. They really only see when you succeed, so I would just say, don’t be afraid of the ride. Don’t be afraid to fail. The only real way that you’ll ever fail is if you don’t even try in the first place.
Boye: That’s so true. We live in a culture where people get so paralyzed that they don’t try. And I think people thrive off of people’s failures too.
Allie: It’s intimidating. There are so many people who will say this about you or they’ll say that about you, but you just have to clear out all of that outside noise and focus on what you want for yourself.
“Don’t be afraid of the ride. Don’t be afraid to fail. The only way that you’ll ever fail is if you don’t even try in the first place.”
Allie: The art world might look at a lot of what we’re trying to do and be like, “Oh, these girls. They’re just looking for attention.” Or, “They’re just posting themselves on social media.” But no, it’s so much more than that. And I think there’s truly a way for the art world to shift. Some fashion designers like Jeremy Scott, for example, have a very public persona. It’s common in fashion now, but for artists it’s not there yet. And I think it’s because the art world is like, ‘Oooooh, the art world,’ you know?
Lexi: They should just embrace the change, honestly. I think the art world is the last creative outlet to get on board with how the world is changing in this digital sense. It just has to adapt a little bit to how younger artists are presenting themselves and presenting their artwork, and accept it.
Boye: Do you have any tangible examples of things you feel like people have an issue with that they need to accept?
Lexi: With us?
Boye: With you.
Lexi: This is so small, but we use a projector. It depends on what the painting is, but we use it for a lot of our text and our words. We also use it to get the initial outline of the image and people always get really angry with that. They’re like, “Oh, they’re not not real artists. They’re just tracing. They project. That’s cheating.” And it’s not cheating. We’re using technology.
Allie: It’s technology! You think every single shirt you wear is hand sewn?
Lexi: Or that every single recording you listen to hasn’t been tweaked a little bit? There are different methods, and I don’t think that any one method is the only way to do something. I don’t think there’s one right way to do something. I think there are ways to approach —
Allie: A technique.
Boye: For sure.
Lexi: A technique, yeah. It’s whatever makes people happy. Whatever they are good at doing. I’m the worst drawer, ever. I don’t like sketching. It’s not for me. I love painting, though.
Boye: You guys are rubbing shoulders with celebrity culture, and the content you are creating is about and for celebrities. Do you have any thought process or idea behind what it means to be a celebrity today?
Allie: I think it’s about being in the public eye and being able to send a message and show yourself as whoever you want.
Lexi: And I think that’s because we have these platforms that allow us to sculpt who we want to be, in a way. Like I said, Instagram is just one of those platforms where you can tweak, brand, and put out the best version of yourself. I think everything that we see on Instagram is a brand; whether it’s a personal brand or you’re expressing your interests.
Allie: It’s an advertisement.
Lexi: Exactly. So, a lot of the work that we create is just kind of absorbing what we see. But yeah, it’s kind of a crazy world. What we see on Instagram is just not real life at all.
Boye: But you guys are good at Instagram.
Lexi: Instagram is crazy. At the end of the day, I think we all, as humans, want a little bit of validation from something or someone. To be able to have that with the click of a button and to receive or not receive that validation…I think it drives people crazy, honestly.
Boye: I think that culture is in for a wild ride, and you guys are at the tip of it, which is really cool. I have one more simple question. How do you tell the two of you apart?
Lexi: Allie has these two little birthmarks on her smile lines.
Allie: One on each side.
Lexi: I’m going to call them moles, because you tell me I have a neck freckle.
Allie: You do have a neck freckle!
Allie: Those are physical differences, I guess.
Lexi: Also, you’re like an inch taller than me.
Allie: I am! But personality wise…
Lexi: Allie’s more outspoken.
Allie: Aggressive. You call me bossy, but I don’t think I’m bossy.
Lexi: Ok, you could use the word aggressive, you could use bossy. Pick what you want, they’re both the same thing.
Allie: Well you’re definitely ruder!
Lexi: I’m more organized. Allie is a little spacey and flakey. But, Allie, for the most part, is the one to be like, “Oh, this would be a great idea if we did a painting of this.” Then I’ll go online. I’ll find the image. I’ll put it all in Photoshop. I’ll do a mock-up and I kind of bring it to life. We’re a team!
Allie: We always say I drive the car.
Lexi: And I navigate. Because, if we didn’t have me, we wouldn’t know where we were going.
Allie: And if we didn’t have me we wouldn’t be able to get there!
Boye: Well, it was great catching up, guys. I love what you’re doing. I’m excited to see the work out there, and let’s chat more soon.
Both: Yeah, for sure!