Free Time: Jordan Kasey at SIGNAL
May 27 - June 26
260 Johnson Avenue
By NICOLE KAACK, JUN. 2016
Free Time opened at that juncture of springtime and summer when leaving jackets at home still felt like freedom, before the dull, insistent heat really began to bleed out into the heart of the night. Into the hopefulness of that moment, Jordan Kasey pours a sense of foreboding and listlessness in a series of portraits that capture the various realities — or sur-realities — of wasted time.
Kasey's scenes are burdened with inertia, weighed down by figures who seem trapped within their own corporeality. Overwhelming the canvas in their immense closeness, these thick forms slump and slouch into view. Kasey captures figures in perfect volumetric rendering, distancing and objectifying the body. In “I can’t sleep!” (all works from 2016), human physicality is bared and burdensome, emerging as a slate gray-blue mass from a tangle of pink and green blankets. Standing before this work, the viewer is immersed in the blue-green colors of a topographic map, her eyes allowed to visually traverse the hills of the figure’s back and the valleys created in the folded blanket.
Painted in cold tones and synthetic colors, Kasey’s bodies exist on the same level as objects, a gesture which she weaves through her execution of these various, painted narratives. The inky black hand that holds a spoon in “Tired at Breakfast” emerges again in the smooth leather of the “Roller Coaster” seat; the wrinkled texture of this same amusement-park precaution comes back in “The Fan” as hair blown over an impassive face. Even in this motion, the temporality and the bodies in the scenes depicted seem to congeal, drying out with the paint. Kasey captures these negligible moment — sitting at the breakfast table or cooling down in front of a paltry fan — as they crawl into stasis, realizing “still life” more fully in these strange scenes than would be possible by portraying a bowl of fruit.
In the eerie equality of subject and object, Kasey explores the places where our perception of normalcy and order are loosened. Upside-down on “Roller Coaster,” knuckles and knees, U-shaped bars and body straps blend into sameness under the rosy glow of a sunset paired with yellow carnival lights. Although the topsy-turvy oneness of man and machine in explicit in the paralleled colors and shapes, the viewer is held at a distance by this painting; the frame is full, leaving no avenue for entry. Mirror and reality merge in “Person with mirrors,” as the reflections of black hair and smudgy gray eyebrow intermix with those of the gray-headed individual adjacently positioned on the canvas. Registering at impossible angles, the reflections blatantly flaunt physical laws, one of them literally turning a cold cheek to the assumedly “real” form at the center of the canvas. Similarly, in “Tired at breakfast,” the woman’s face is eerily refracted in the mirror of the spoon, which casts her inverted reflection outward to the viewer, rather than inwards towards her sleeping eyes. In this funhouse distortion and glow, Kasey reflects real life as something uncomfortable and alien, painting people that are not either-or but both; slit-like eyes that are both open and closed, reflections and realities that are both here and there.
In these less-than-banal visions, an ominous mood mounts in small but insidious subversions of expectation. Consequently, the revelation of a single painting in the far room of the gallery is both a humorous relief and satisfying resolution. As with the other paintings, “Shapes Person at the Beach” refers directly to the image portrayed. A reclining figure with a muddy-colored circle for a head, an abstractly painted rectangle for a torso, and black tire-tube legs, grins sheepishly at us with an oblong, cartoonish mouth. The “shapes person” lives in the world that Kasey edges slowly into through the inversions and reflections of “Tired at Breakfast” and “Person with Mirrors.” Through the hyper-real, cut-and-paste texture of ClipArt or the confusing splices of surrealist collage, Kasey affirms the dream-like quality that hovered on the edge of the first five canvases. In “Shapes Person at the Beach” painting becomes a companion to the insomniac state-of-mind, pushed beyond possibility by the delirium of a restless frustration. Through her physically encompassing compositions, Kasey reveals the uncanniness within the everyday, presenting her audience the opportunity to invent and imagine an even stranger world than the one we live in. WM
Nicole Kaack is a freelance writer from Northern California. Currently based in Harlem, New York, she is a contributing author to Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art and Art Critical.view all articles from this author