Acrylic, silver deposit and string on canvas 122 × 91.5 cm (48 × 36 in)
Executed in 2010, this painting is a characteristic example of Jacob Kassay’s unique technique. Once the canvas has been primed and painted with broad brushstrokes of acrylic paint, the surface is subjected to an elaborate chemical process which results in a shiny silver surface. At the same time, during the process, any exposed raw canvas is burnt, turning it into a dark smoky tint and making each unique piece half-opaque and half-reflective.
The mirror-like monochrome surface reflects its surroundings including the viewer without whom the piece – in a Duchampian way – would never be complete. Light, colour and movement are the main elements comprising a surface not capable of an accurate reflection but of exposing the suggestive qualities of abstraction and image. It is with irony that such a technique, redolent of the pre-digital era of photography, draws us that much closer toward abstraction.
“The way that these thin silver surfaces delicately capture the traces of whatever stands before them evokes photography, with its light-sensitive emulsions of metal salts. But film photography as a technology has now been surpassed by digital – just as photography itself once usurped the province of painting – making Kassay’s metal coatings feel like bronzed baby shoes, elegies to an unrecoverable past. Simultaneously paintings made into memorials, sculptures that refer to photography, and abstractions that speak of the changing regimes of representation, Kassay’s works, while beautiful, are also melancholic, philosophical objects” (Joseph R. Wolin, Time Out New York, 19 March 2009).