Critics’ Picks

Cynthia Daignault, Gettysburg (Witness Tree), 2021, oil on linen, 96 × 48".

Cynthia Daignault, Gettysburg (Witness Tree), 2021, oil on linen, 96 × 48".

New York

Cynthia Daignault

Kasmin | 297 Tenth Avenue
297 Tenth Avenue
November 18, 2021–January 8, 2022

A friend asked me recently whether I felt that I moved through time or if I was still with time running toward me. I was told assuredly that there was no wrong answer, but I was oddly confident in my response: Time barrels on as I remain stagnant. My friend, however, felt the opposite, and I suppose science would tell us that either option is equally illusory. Cynthia Daignault’s paintings often explore the subjectivity of time and the countless ways we attempt to wrest control of it, no matter how futile our efforts. In “As I Lay Dying,” the artist’s solo exhibition at Kasmin, she uses Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania—the site of the Civil War’s bloodiest battle—as a springboard for interrogating temporality and death—the great equalizers. Her oil-on-linen works here posit that, while we clumsily hurtle through the millennia, the landscape holds a stillness—a quietude that acts as an objective spectator. Take the large oak that silently watched fifty thousand men go to slaughter (as seen in Gettysburg [Witness Tree], all works 2021) at the height of summer in 1863—how it remains an unjudging entity whose leaves turned bloodred in the fall before dying in winter, only to be replaced with new life the following spring.

Gettysburg (Infantryman) depicts a soldier’s monument just as night has fallen, barely perceptible as the last fingers of light begin to lift their touch. A number of other paintings here also hinge on the metaphor of daylight’s waxing and waning. Gettysburg (Chiaroscuro), for example, is a diptych that examines a single tree from opposing vantages, with one panel showing it awash in light and the other cast in shadow. In Gettysburg (11/19/63), Daignault has painted the words from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, but rather than rendering them sequentially, they’re listed in alphabetical order—another manner of collapsing our drive for linear sense making.