Deborah Kass: Feel Good Paintings for Feel Bad Times

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Deborah Kass: Feel Good Paintings for Feel Bad Times

I had the pleasure of hitting the Chelsea art scene for the opening of Deborah Kass's Feel Good Paintings for Feel Bad Times; you can see the paintings for yourself on the video blog (that would be me in the pigtails).

In the press release for the show, this new work is described as "dealing with the intersection of self, popular culture, contemporary art, and art history." I would throw feminism into that intersection, too, though it seems so obvious that maybe I don't really have to say it.

Far be it for me to pigeonhole anyone as a "feminist artist" (gasp), never! But that just means I don't agree that her art is meaningful only to feminists. It's still not gauche, I hope, to observe that her work is informed by a strongly woman-as-subject ethos; after her highly acclaimed Warhol project, she was quoted by John Waters as saying she "basically replaced Andy’s male homosexual gaze with Jewish female voice and blatant lesbian diva worship." And who can't get behind a little Jewish lesbian diva worship, I ask you? In this show, spread between two rooms, the canvases are mostly larger-than-life (72"x72" or more), relating to each other in bright color vs. black-and-white or muted-color pairs, such as Little Funk (a.k.a. Do You Wanna Funk With Me) (2006) and Desert Daddy (a.k.a. Daddy I Would Love to Dance) (2007).

In both cases, the two versions are in different rooms, so that the viewer does not experience them simultaneously; perhaps this is an allusion to our perceptions of shadow and light, "the flipside of the coin," our basic duality as sentient beings, knowing that we cannot experience both simultaneously. Yet that is just what Kass is asking us to do: feel good even in bad times.

The title of the show comes from a place of nostalgia for "Post-War (that's WWII, kids) American optimism, the middle class, and the notion that the world was ours to change." Kass's art acknowledges and struggles with the notion that our past optimism has now been replaced by a more "provisional relationship" to the world.

Dichotomous signifiers aside, there is a clear flavor and methodology of pop-art at work here, carrying through from the Warhol Project; the use of stencil-style text as central



Comments [3]

Deborah Kass's picture

p.s. in "nobody puts baby.."

p.s. in "nobody puts baby.." the painting reference is Kenneth Noland.
dk

Deborah Kass's picture

Hey Jenny, I just found this

Hey Jenny,
I just found this online. WOW! Thanks for the great review! Is this in the print magazine too? If so, got to get me some for the archive. Thanks a million.
Deb

Betsy Florin's picture

I don't live in NY and

I don't live in NY and haven't seen the show but I enjoyed the gallery tour and insightful & witty commentary. Got my Jewish lesbian diva worship on in Providence, RI. Thanks.