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The art of Jacob Kassay

The work of Jacob Kassay

Jacob Kassay's artful art

Dancing with the past: collaboration and choreography

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Given the implied presence of Rauschenberg's White Paintings, it's apt, then, that a further work in the L & M show consists of an expansive all-white canvas with a precisely curved edge (above).

This arc is used to insinuate the form of a circle, the full extent of which is indicated by a second curve drawn on the wall and bisecting one of the monochrome diptychs.

While this circular half-presence finds something of an echo in Kassay's semi-suggestion of dancers, it specifically invokes the principles of optical perception, engaging the viewer quite literally in a collaborative creation of form and meaning.

The mechanics of perception are also fundamental to a recent video by the artist in which a helicopter with a stationary rotor seems to hover in mid-air (below).

This seemingly impossible scenario was actually achieved via a fairly lo-tech procedure: with the film frame rate exactly matching the rotation of the helicopter blades per second, Kassay conjured the illusion that they simply weren't turning at all. Note 4

Jacob Kassay, 'Helicopter'

Although Helicopter initially appears to have little in common with the artist's earlier works (the medium is unexpected; it departs from abstraction) its iteration of principal themes soon becomes apparent.

Among them, of course, is the fascination with dualities, which can be extended to include illusionary states, reflections and misperceptions of various types.

After all, Kassay's 'minimal' paintings are charged with a fundamental ambiguity arising, in part, from assumptions generated by their appearance.

Purporting to uphold a minimalist ideology, these works are instead imbued with exactly the kind of contextual resonance and performative complexity his referents (generally) strove to avoid.

We're reminded, once again, of the silver works' imperfect reflections and the way in which their presence mediates and subtly distorts.

And then, of course, there's the paradox of concurrent dynamism and stasis which Helicopter so beautifully illustrates; itself another of Kassay's key conceits.

Apart from obvious manifestations - reflected presences enlivening still surfaces; choreographic metaphor used to govern a static installation; the demand on a viewer to mentally complete half-forms in an act of perceptual closure - we could cite one of Kassay's early performances in which he struck a loop of chords from a guitar which was then set aside, the sound programmed to reverb endlessly while the instrument lay untouched.

Jacob Kassay, silver deposit on canvas

Or refer again to the silver-plate works which, with their scorchmarks and underlying, smoky hues, provide permanently arrested evidence of an intensely combustible facture (left).

Even the processes of cultural quotation and recycling in which Kassay (like many artists of his generation) participates can be said to characterise movement within rigidity. Because the act of appropriation constantly reanimates a (notionally) immutable past, imbuing its artefacts with ever-increasing layers of resonance and meaning.

By concealing a whorl of dynamic movement behind the illusion of stasis, Helicopter provides an apt leitmotif for Kassay's deceptively charged minimalist borrowings and the deftly crafted tactics through which they take flight.

Jacob Kassay: next >



Jacob Kassay and Amy Granat, 'Levitation' film still

4. Kassay's pre-digital production methods reflect his comment "I think that the work I'm doing could've been made sixty years ago. Everything I'm working with now was available then."

Interestingly, 'Helicopter's theme of lo-fi illusion has been pushed to almost Vaudevillian extremes in a series of films/photographic stills created by Kassay in collaboration with Amy Granat.

'Levitation' (2010, above) sees a barely concealed hand lift a woman's body in an atmospheric yet kookily obvious 'gravity-defying' act.

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