Critics’ Picks

View of “Kristan Kennedy Meets A Clock,” 2014.

New York

Kristan Kennedy

Soloway
348 South 4th St.
April 27 - June 22

Soloway
348 South 4th St.
April 27 - June 22

Kristan Kennedy’s New York solo debut is a tour de force of painterly process. Kennedy works on unstretched, unraveling expanses of raw Belgian linen—soaking, machine washing, scrubbing, and occasionally brushing sumi, dye, and pigment into the tawny, textured material for months at a time. Within their final state, color and form swirl and fade, melting before our eyes into an atmospheric vision punctuated by flimsy skims of gesso and bits of road-crushed aluminum that cling to the surfaces like scabby jewels. The work’s intense dialectic of beauty and repulsion mirrors the artist’s philosophical struggles—we sense that both artist and artwork have gone through the wringer—together—to achieve the hard-won grace so palpable in the work.

In past exhibitions, Kennedy has draped the paintings over walls and furniture, allowing them to spill across the floor—speaking to the work’s domesticity. But here, the artist pushes the work into new territory, exploring the armature as a means for activating its indigenous kineticism, allowing them to bend and shift, grazing one another. The works are untethered, changeably formless objects in a resting state that brings to mind the question of their next iteration.

In the exhibition’s most engaging grouping, three paintings (E.P.R.S.N., 2014; B.O.M., 2014; and W.R.D.R.M.R.N.G., 2013) hang over the thin, protruding arms of a fine brass “rack” installed directly into the gallery walls. The adjustable rods allow Kennedy to reposition the paintings at will throughout the run of the show. At times they hug the walls, at other times they protrude into the space, creating little nooks large enough for a person to hide inside. Enveloped by the paintings, their emotional intensity becomes strangely reassuring, as though part of a larger story or theatrical narrative. Kennedy often titles her works with enigmatic anagrams, drawing our awareness to the more private and literary aspects of their distressed and sensual evolution.