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Jacob Kassay's maximised minimalism

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Another artist to whom Kassay appears to owe a stylistic - and even ideological - debt is Blinky Palermo, whose practice infused the comparative austerity of minimalism and hard-edged abstraction with wry humour and a subtly subversive edge.

Blinky Palermo and Jacob Kassay

Late works such as Mirror Object (1973, left) intriguingly chime with Kassay's production in several obvious ways, including the playful exploration of negative space (between them, the sides of Palermo's paired triangles begin to create a further triangular shape).

Palermo was also fascinated by the organisational possibilities of formal divisions of colour, a concern giving rise to sequences of works unified by simple chromatic variants (below).

This interest also premises the collaborative potential between individual works which, in varying degrees, likewise features throughout Kassay's practice and is particularly evident in the ICA installations.

Jacob Kassay and Blinky Palermo

There's more. Towards the end of his short career, Palermo created a significant number of in situ drawings which directly referred to their architectural environment through strategies such as outlining the shapes of walls.

Jacob Kassay, fabric work

And his Stoffbilder or 'Fabric Pictures' (1966-1972) did away with paint altogether by attaching commercially printed cloth to stretchers. An early piece by Kassay shows a somewhat similar use of striped fabric (left), while a startling new series of sculptures employ humble sackcloth as a principal material (more on these later).

Despite such parallels with various distinguished forebears, however - through similarities ranging from clear-cut to the tenuous-but-pleasingly-suggestive - Kassay shrugs off suggestions of overt homage, stating "Of course I have my heroes, but I can't say they're direct influences".

A rather puzzling claim, possibly, but the extent to which he redevelops familiar art historical tropes into something ultimately unfamiliar and newly engaging has seldom been fully acknowledged or, perhaps, even recognised.

In fact, Kassay's intricate handling of ostensibly minimal material in order to relay stringently coordinated concerns is often so subtle that it can go almost unnoticed; approaching, in its wily complexity, the intermingled skeins of association and reference typical of, say, an artist such as Iain Kiaer, whose apparently reductive production is equally plush with meaning.

And if proof were needed of such self-aware craftsmanship, a more in-depth appraisal of his ICA show reveals it in droves.

 

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