Solitary Figures: The Paintings of Jas Knight
By PAUL LASTER, JUL. 2015
An artist with immense representational skills, Jas Knight paints contemporary life like an Old Master. The Connecticut-born, Philadelphia-trained painter portrays black women realistically in domestic situations. His subjects—all of whom are his friends that he paints from life, photographs, and memory—are depicted in the glow of digital devices and incandescent lighting in the way that George de La Tour’s luminous subjects were caught by candlelight centuries ago.
His solo show at New York’s Bill Hodges Gallery features hyper-realistic paintings of women of African and Caribbean descent checking their desktop computers, laptops, and cell phones, as well as completing such banal domestic tasks as vacuuming and making the bed—isolated scenes that are mostly staged in his Brooklyn apartment.
Tantalum, The Love Letter and Smiling Woman, Computer Love capture a jovial woman illuminated by an iPhone and iPad, while Niobe exhibits a young lady taking a “selfie” as the glow from the phone creates an angelic aura around her head.
Inbox 1, Inbox 2, and The Model and the Monitor show his stylish subjects engaged with the World Wide Web when working from a desktop or a laptop from a chair or bed—like we all do. Another painting, Autumn, ironically shows a woman wearing a hijab making the same bed that one of the women is viewing a laptop upon.
Meanwhile, the canvas The New, depicting a young Caribbean woman, fiddling with a vacuum cleaner, pays homage—through the product and its title—to Jeff Koons, an artist that Knight assists in his day job.
Two other paintings—Woman with Blue and Black and Amy, View of Harlem—are inspired by Dutch master Johannes Vermeer with their “Girl with a Pearl Earring” lighting, clarity, and beauty. And the frames that Knight uses further reference the gilded age of Renaissance painting, as well as sometimes hinting at the presentation of Modernist masters.
Layering the past—as the title of his show, “Euhemerized,” implies—Knight adds to art history by casting light, both old and new, on the present.WM
Paul Laster is a writer, editor, curator, artist and lecturer. He’s a contributing editor at ArtAsiaPacific and Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art and writer for Time Out New York, Harper’s Bazaar Arabia, Galerie Magazine, Sculpture, Art & Object, Cultured, Architectural Digest, Garage, Surface, Ocula, Observer, ArtPulse, Conceptual Fine Arts and Glasstire. He was the founding editor of Artkrush, started The Daily Beast’s art section, and was art editor of Russell Simmons’ OneWorld Magazine, as well as a curator at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, now MoMA PS1.
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