By 6:10 p.m. of the 6 o’clock opening of Deb Kass’ new word scrabble paintings at Paul Kasmin, the gallery had decided to remove a Morris Louis stripe painting and a light pastel Ken Noland stripe painting downstairs to a private viewing room and install Kass’ flourescent light tribute to Bruce Nauman in a room of its own.
Well, everybody praised this particular piece, what moved me was a couple of psychedelic takes on Frank Stella / Richard Anuskiewicz, which are the only new development from Kass’ 2007 show at Kasmin. That show was distinguished by some brilliant Ellen Gallagher-style black paintings, of which there are two new ones in this show, and, as a Kass lover (indeed, a Kass Ass Trophy, see title above), the new show made me ponder the ups and downs of Kassdom. Specifically, how does one elevate Deborah into the pantheon, beyond the simple words "also represented by Vincent Fremont"?
Last winter, Deborah (whose work moved me so much as far back as 1995, that I used to spy on her Thomas Street studio across the alley from painter Steve Davis’ loft, to see what Deb was working on) asked me whether she should show again with Kasmin in last March or wait until September. I advised waiting and gleefully informed Kasmin at some Upper East Side cocktail party soon after that not-so-little ol’ me had actually changed his exhibition schedule. The shy toad jumped 30 feet.
Well, now we have the new show and the question again is, "Whither Kass?" My advice (a sawbuck and a shoeshine) is a) decouple Kass from her male artist referents and b) think very big.
All afternoon, on the day of Deborah’s opening, the fembots on CNBC were name-checking Deb’s work, because her cuddly brother Doug Kass, the hedge funder, is a frequent talking head on that network. Well, I want to see Kassaganda marketed the way Sean Kelly sells Joseph Kosuths to the Saudis: billboards priced by the square yard.
I want the opening bell on Wall Street permanently Kassed and the 14 percent unemployment rate in Las Vegas lowered into single digits because neon Kass signs are being erected all over the Strip. I want the HOLLYWOOD sign redone in star-spangled Kassiolas with Bette, Babs and Cher warbling from atop the "H". . . and I don’t wanna hear about no f’ing male artists in the bargain, capiche, Fremont?
"Deborah Kass: More Feel Good Paintings for Feel Bad Times," Sept. 23-Oct. 30, 2010, at Paul Kasmin Gallery, 293 Tenth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10011.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).