New York

Kate Kennedy

New Math Gallery

At a time when so much art is downright derivative, just plain boring, and even ugly, this show was a striking contrast. Here, Kate Kennedy achieved what every young artist aspires to but few attain: she found her own way. And her way is what I would call the sentient way. Working in a bold figurative style, she deals with a suggestive content. The success of a sentient vision is determined by the degree to which it can suggest feelings and sensations not literally but visually, through form and color, surface and structure. Kennedy’s paintings, for example, are “right” in that they confront the viewer with an integrity all their own. They are convincing. It is this quality of believability that enables these paintings to function as visual emblems of the larger truths hidden behind the veil of the familiar.

In Red Snappers, 1985, a group of fish jump through a wall of blue-green waves which have stylized spiral shapes, creating a pattern of rhythmical lines that dance across this large three-panel composition. This pattern is further animated by another allover horizontal pattern which is built texturally into the thick surfaces by the artist’s technique of controlled dripping. The total effect is not only attractive to the eye but appealing to the emotions. It would be difficult not to be affected by this striking symbol of nature’s constant mutability, represented by the sea, and its elemental character, represented by the fish.

In The Pact, 1985, two skirt-clad women of handsome appearance, each with bare breasts and bare feet, are shown greeting each other in front of a green landscape beneath a black sky with a tiny red sliver of a moon. In front of them is a table which supports three bowls containing different foods. The ritual in their gesture, in the way they each clasp hands or the way one of the women touches her own body, suggests that they are more than ordinary people, goddesses perhaps, divine personifications of the human need to share bounty. The sensation of peace and the feelings of goodness and giving embodied in these figures are underscored by the harmonious structure of the composition and the rich and resonant beauty of the surfaces.

In Pescadora, 1985, Kennedy displays her keen ability to portray psychological mood. Another skirted woman with bare feet and breasts stands under an arch; it is night and the stars shine against the lustrous black sky. She carries a basket of fish, and there are piles of fish lying on the ground around her feet. The large scale of the figure in relation to the architecture stresses her importance and reinforces the viewer’s sense of her isolation. From her expression we see she is unhappy and absorbed in her own thoughts. What or who is she thinking about? Why is she alone? In Pescadora and in her other paintings, Kennedy triggers the narrative curiosity of her audience.

Ronny Cohen