Thu Mar 19 2009
Photograph: Courtesy of Eleven Rivington, New York
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
In his promising debut, Jacob Kassay paints canvases in broad horizontal strokes of color before electroplating them in silver. The result: Specular works that are hung on the walls or, in one instance, stacked on a low pedestal like oversized ingots to create a strange hybrid of monochrome painting and metallic sculpture.
The plating process scorches unpainted canvas, so the edges of these works are often blackened. In a few cases, burn marks extend onto the shiny faces of the panels, fading into golden, tarnish-like smears. Here and there, hints of the original color show through, and some of the pieces have strands of unraveled canvas flopping across the front, their sinuous curves fossilized under paint and silver. Yet the artist downplays surface incident, and the works appear nearly interchangeable: A set of rough mirrors that imperfectly reflect their surroundings, registering color and movement, if not the actual appearance of things.
The way that these thin silver surfaces delicately capture the traces of whatever stands before them evokes photography, with its light-sensitive emulsions of metal salts. But film photography as a technology has now been surpassed by digital—just as photography itself once usurped the province of painting—making Kassay's metal coatings feel like bronzed baby shoes, elegies to an unrecoverable past. Simultaneously paintings made into memorials, sculptures that refer to photography, and abstractions that speak of the changing regimes of representation, Kassay's works, while beautiful, are also melancholic, philosophical objects.—Joseph R. Wolin