Jaqueline Cedar & Kyoung Eun Kang

A. M. Richards Fine Arts
(5/8 – 6/13, 2010)
328 Berry Street, 3rd Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11211

Review by Robert Egert

cedar_jaqueline_Hand on Shoulder, Hand on Head

Jaqueline Cedar

It’s unusual and refreshing to see ambitious, large-scale paintings today, especially from an artist just starting her career. Jaqueline Cedar’s new paintings manifest an admirable attempt to synthesize and reinvigorate figurative abstraction and to reconnect with themes and formal issues that have mostly been retired into art history books.

Citing Paul Klee and Orphism (If like me, you need a refresher, Orphism was an art movement of the early twentieth century that focused on bright, colorful abstraction in a shallow, lenticular space), Cedar uses the figure as a starting point for a fragmented environment filled with light, color and movement. Cedar’s paintings are reliant upon large scale for the optical effects that happen when the viewers’ field of vision is practically filled with the canvas.

Unlike the Orphists however, Cedar never relinquishes her hold on the figures. While they become visually fragmented and non-specific, gestures and placement take a dominant role. These compositions suggest narratives that are not so much about real world events but rather theoretical or symbolic in nature. For example, they may refer metaphorically to stages of psychosocial development that occur over a decade in a child’s life. Alternatively they may stand for stages of emotional evolution that occur through ritual or life-altering events. In fact, the painterly treatment of the figures is so non-specific (feet disappear, facial features are merely suggested) that we are forced to understand the figures as representations of concepts.

While Cedar still has many career chapters ahead, her paintings are admirable for their ambition, color handling and seemingly effortless integration of esoteric themes. In an interview accompanying the exhibition, Cedar states that she intends on developing much smaller scale paintings. It will be interesting to see how her work morphs as the smaller scale will likely require an entirely different formal approach.

Kyoung Eun Kang

In this taped performance, Kang ensconces herself head-to-toe in red and blue cotton candy and then proceeds to methodically eat her way out, leaving a few undigested scraps on the ground. Resembling a moth emerging from a chrysalis, (or someone in an odd sleeping bag) we initially only see her tongue and then her mouth chewing from the inside out. As she continues to consume more and more of the intensely colored cotton candy we see her slowly emerge naked from the cocoon, skin and tongue dyed almost black from the candy.

The recent Marina Abramovic retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art has helped concretize what might be termed a classical vocabulary for conceptual art: Centered on the performer’s nude body, focused on elemental forces (fatigue, hunger, fear, etc,) and reliant on behavior vs. props or explanations.

Ms. Kang’s performance operates within this classical vocabulary. It is elegant in its simplicity and succinctly executed. The economy of elements (the artist, cotton candy, eating one’s way out) results in a performance that is clear, memorable and that doesn’t rely on commentary or verbal discourse.