“Painting and Sculpture,” Deborah Kass’ first exhibition at Kavi Gupta Gallery, invites onlookers to explore present-day conditions.
The gallery’s walls are enhanced with large square paintings in brightly colored pigments. “Don’t Stop” (2019) is a large painting divided into a red-and-blue section, adorned with the words “Don’t Stop” in neon lights, spanning the entire canvas. Next to this piece is a yellow work at the same scale with the same verbiage. The words “don’t stop” have shown up multiple times through American pop culture, like in Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough.” The overwhelming scale of the piece—each painting is six square feet—serves as a message to the viewer, a reminder of purpose during the current challenging sociopolitical climate. “Don’t Stop,” 2019 and and “Don’t Stop 3 (Yellow/Yellow/Yellow),” 2020 can be simply looked at as an exercise in repetition, but Kass speaks to the mental courage many actions in life require. Repeated actions that don’t always have a tangible outcome are prevalent in “Painting and Sculpture.”
In another area of the gallery is a nine-panel grid piece, each in its own brightly pigmented tones: magenta, kelly green, blue-green. “Everybody” (2019) echoes historical art references—the aesthetic measures of the work are reminiscent of minimalism of Donald Judd and the color palette of Piet Mondrian. In a period where social status is questioned, Kass in turn questions the equality of art and the unequal criticism for women artists versus male artists.
“Painting and Sculpture,” like the two words themselves, can be seen as nouns, but instead Kass uses them as verbs. The unseen is powerful, and amongst the potent hues and sometimes overwhelming scales, Kass expresses power through paint. The minimalist message of this show removes itself from the blatant emotional connotations. The simple forms explore complex subject matter. Light and space are one through Kass’ works.
“Painting and Sculpture” challenges the viewers’ perception of color and text to explore subtle engagement. Kass’ bright colors are an energetic call to action, revealing that painting and sculpture are never linear. (Caira Moreira-Brown)
“Deborah Kass: Painting and Sculpture,” Kavi Gupta, 219 North Elizabeth, through February 28, 2021