‘Jacob Kassay: Untitled (Disambiguation)’ at the Kitchen

Using large scraps of white, off-white, burlap-colored and pale industrial green linen left over from previous projects, some of them dating back to grad school (which, of course, wasn’t that long ago), Jacob Kassay has constructed a series of scrupulously odd-shaped monochromes, all untitled, that have the elegant simplicity and the delicately affected sheen of humility of a Japanese tea ceremony. None of the lines are too straight, and most of the shapes—though not the lunar white sliver hung on a black wall, or the best piece, a squat, notched green hut—are clearly but not ostentatiously negative, the kind of sticky long bars and borders left when you cut rectangles out of larger rectangles. Standing in the buzz of the fluorescent lights and numbering the canvases’ few imperfections—the dark bits of fuzz, the hanging white threads, the single black eyelash—you can imagine a complementary positive of effort, some long process of attempting, failing, winnowing and editing necessary to get to this kind of meditative, purely nonobjective blankness. A few examples of Mr. Kassay’s earlier work, large canvases coated with layer after layer of gesso and then electroplated with silver to make warmly foggy mirrors that reflect the viewer back to herself, but not so clearly as to be emptily conceptual, seem to bear this out. But under examination, the pieces look more and more recessively reactive, the products not of good choices triumphantly discovered, but of bad choices pre-emptively denied. (Through Feb. 16, 2013)

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