Thursday, January 15, 2009

Chelsea Gets Back to the Future

The resurgence of figurative realism which has marked the past decade seems to have kicked into high gear with exhibits by artists such as David Jon Kassan who recently showed at Gallery Henoch in New york City's Chelsea art district.

This is a really encouraging development: my memories of a Chelsea art crawl two years ago featured plastic garbage bags tacked to a gallery wall along with a pile of smashed up ping-pong balls on the floor. As is the custom in these parts, the garbage bags were accompanied by the obligatory essay. The arranger of crushed plastic had been hard at work re-contextualizing the viewer's perception of what art is, finding found objects and leaving the job of making the stuff that actually is art (or might be art if properly "contextualized") to less "discursive" folk.

A big relief it was then, in September of 2008, to see the likes of David Kassan's solid figures posed against graffiti- scarred concrete walls. Kassan's chunky, visceral build-up of paint in the lights points in the direction of Rembrandt's emotional heaviness. An obsessive attention to the topography of flesh lends gravitas to the subjects. The gritty urban backdrops echo the grooved textures of flesh and neatly marry abstraction and realism. The result is a figurative oeuvre that is contemporary to its bones, but stands confidently on the shoulders of past giants.

David Jon Kassan Web Site:

Gallery Henoch:

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