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The art of Jacob Kassay

emerging contemporary artists

Jacob Kassay's artful art

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While Kassay's abstractions serve in one respect as generic representations of the minimalist or colour field movements - anyone, however slight their knowledge of art, can interpret these works as extreme distillations of non-representational painting - identifiable art-historical influences are also very much at play.

Kassay himself has noted the importance of Ad Reinhardt's ostensibly uniform paintings (Note 3) with regard to his own silver-plate pieces and their ever-changing surfaces (more on this later).

And the pairing of canvases seen at his dance-themed L & M show - itself a closely choreographed pas de deux of sorts (above) - is reminiscent of early works by Brice Marden, whose diptychs and triptychs in subdued, low-key palettes are echoed by Kassay's colour schemes.

We're reminded, too, that although Marden's paintings are entirely non-objective in appearance, they frequently cite specific events and locations as well as works from the classical art canon, such as D'apr├Ęs la Marquise de la Solana (1969) (below), which references a celebrated portrait by Goya.

Jacob Kassay: influences and references

Indeed, it's tempting to suggest that, taking a similar approach to Marden, Kassay's diptychs draw chromatic inspiration from works by Edgar Degas, whose oeuvre, of course, is intrinsically associated with the world of ballet.

This possibility was made more plausible by the artist himself in an interview prior to the L & M opening.

Asked about the show's balletic theme, Kassay observed that "The word for rehearsal, in French, is the same word for repetition: répétition. And I thought, 'well that's interesting. I work in a very repetitive way'...."

The word répétition also happens to feature consistently in the matter-of-fact titles Degas gave his paintings. And even if the likelihood remains fairly remote that Kassay came across the term through reference to the impressionist master (below), his comment certainly reveals a fascination with conceits and word play - a predilection for which, as we shall see, is far from absent in the artist's surprisingly ludic practice.

Jacob Kassay and Edgar Degas

The layers of art historical allusion do not stop with Marden and (possibly) Degas, but also invoke Kassay's deep interest in artistic collaboration; particularly, in this case, the stage designs created by Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns for Merce Cunningham's dance group.

An entirely apposite reference for this choreographically inclined show, it's also a thread that leads directly back to minimalism via the musical works of John Cage, and Rauschenberg's own, early involvement with the monochrome - in particular his White Paintings of 1951, about which their creator once noted: "you could almost tell how many people are (sic) in the room" due to their surface sensitivity to the ambiental conditions in which they are shown.

Such an observation could clearly also be made about Kassay's acclaimed 'mirrors'.

Jacob Kassay and Rhys Chatham

Additionally, Kassay's interest in cross-disciplinary endeavour has led to ongoing collaboration with minimalist musician Rhys Chatham, whose piece Rêve Parisien was first performed live in front of a silver-plate backdrop at Kassay's 2009 show at Art:Concept in Paris (left).

The complex skeins of meaning that insistently unite Kassay's practice are, as ever, equally intrinsic to this musical performance: John Cage's famed 4'33 for piano, the seminal minimalist composition, was purportedly created as a direct response to Rauschenberg's white monochromes.

The work of Jacob Kassay: next >



3. Ad Reinhardt's influential series of 'Black Paintings' at first appear monochromatic, but in fact consist of grids of highly subtle colour variations which can only be properly distinguished first-hand.

Reinhardt is one of very few artists directly cited as a reference by Kassay, although much of this interest lies in the attention to detail and physical proximity such work demands.

Requiring a viewer's presence and full attention in order to function as intended, Reinhardt's works are, like many of Kassay's, essentially interactive.

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