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Art: Review: Lines, Webs and Sites

Paul Kass makes building supplies work as art

By Angela Kilduff · January 23rd, 2008 · Visual Art
  A piece from Paul Kass'
Sean Hughes

A piece from Paul Kass' "Roy G. Biv" series

Paul Kass makes fine art with materials you might find in your garage, but his work is anything but ordinary. An interest in form, structure, pattern and color defines his sculpture, and his unconventional use of materials creates a distinct visual vocabulary.

Kass graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1990 and moved to Chicago soon after. He's a sculptor and painter by training, but carpentry work after college introduced him to many of the construction materials used in his work today. In Lines, Webs and Sites, the exhibition currently on view at ArtWorks, Kass uses ordinary building supplies such as drywall, wire, vinyl and tape to add a tactile dimension to the minimal forms and patterns he explores.

During his artist's talk at ArtWorks' opening reception, Kass shied away from attaching specific meanings to his works or artistic process so that the works may stand alone as aesthetic objects.

He wanted the viewer "to look at (each work) and get something from the experience" rather than having it neatly laid out. He continued, saying if "I need to supply these secondary information sources then I haven't done my work in some way."

Instead of providing easy answers to questions of meaning, Kass offered the audience different levels to consider as lenses through which the viewer could see his work. He spoke about the importance of form, materiality and labor and how his sculpture blurs lines between artistic media and questions traditional concepts of art and beauty.

The exhibition includes three works from the artist's "Roy G. Biv" series. The immense works each consist of a shallow wooden frame backed by a different color. Clear vinyl stretched like canvas suspends complex webs of pattern over the colors below. The wavering, layered grids meticulously made with white paint marker cast subtle shadows beneath them.

At a quick glance the vinyl appears to be glass, the material one might expect to see in a gallery setting, but the vinyl adds a soft quality that complements that of the grid patterns. Kass displayed the complete series last summer at the Alfadena Gallery in Chicago. It included seven works for each of the colors in the mnemonic device "Roy G. Biv," used by children to memorize the colors of the rainbow.

Kass's minimalist aesthetic owes much to the seminal work of Carl Andre, and his labor-intensive use of non-art materials on simple forms recalls that of Eva Hesse. A thorough attention to craft is evident in "Blue Cones" -- using blue painter's tape, he painstakingly formed a cluster of cones and fastened them together with map pins. The delicate forms stand on pointed ends, creating a visual tension that the material contrast of the coiled tape and metal pins enhances.

When asked about the exhibition via e-mail, ArtWorks Executive Director Tamara Harkavy responded, "The works in this show appeal to a wide-range of eyes, from students to collectors in large part, I think because of his use of ordinary utilitarian materials, laboriously transformed into detailed, clean and yet monumentally striking works."

Kass' drawings, paintings and sculptures are visually poetic works that invite questions and investigation.

Critics Pick

LINES, WEBS AND SITES is on display at ArtWorks through Feb. 15. See the exhibition during regular gallery hours or during the Fine Art Fund Sampler Weekend Cocktail Party 5-8 p.m. Feb. 8. Get gallery hours and find nearby bars and restaurants here.



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