Paul Kasmin Gallery is currently hosting Deborah Kass: No Kidding, an exhibition of new mixed media paintings. Mounted on fields of primarily black and blue, Kass incorporates neon lights in her paintings for the first time, limiting her signature palette, to spell out puns and phrases bearing pop cultural references that provide a somber meditation on the troubling present, and uncertain future.
No Kidding represents the artist’s fourth body of work that deals at the intersection of popular culture, contemporary art, art history, and politics. Like all of Kass’s most important series of the past 25 years, these works might be said to deploy what has been recently labeled citational modernism. But in stark contrast to its current practitioners, her work has consistently and articulately deconstructed the unspoken politics of modernism and reinvented it with urgent and contemporary political meaning. An extension of her feel good paintings for feel bad times, Kass’ most recent body of work sets a darker, tougher tone as she reflects on contemporary issues such as global warming, institutional racism, police brutality, gun violence, and attacks on women’s health, through the lens of minimalism and grief.
Kass’ paintings often borrow their titles and puns from songs, such as, Just A Shot Away, 2014, which takes its name from the Rolling Stones’ 1969 song “Gimme Shelter,” that was written in response to the violence of that time. Consistently laden with ambiguity, this work, along with others in the series, references a range of current social, political, and environmental tipping points.
Happy Days, 2014, a multi panel, black-colored painting, references the campaign song for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s successful 1932 Presidential campaign. The song was re-recorded thirty years later by Barbra Streisand – historically one of Kass’ muses– giving it a new context for a different generation. Kass provides yet another reading, commenting on the fate of the New Deal and America’s relationship to happiness and hope. As the viewer sees their reflection in the mirror-like surface, they are reminded of their responsibility for the present state of affairs.
In a separate room, Kass’ paintings The Band Played On and Prepare for Saints provide the coda for the show. In the spirit of Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, they are made with non-traditional materials, and collectively with all the paintings in the exhibit, look at the present and the future with striking ambivalence.
No Kidding By Deborah Kass will be on Exhibit Through January 23rd, 2016 at Paul Kasmin Gallery, Located at 515 West 27th Street, in the Chelsea Gallery District.