Contributed by Curtis Mitchell / The moment of entering a gallery opening – bright lights, convivial conversation, and walls and floor partially seen through conjoined bodies – is not conducive to thoughtful viewing. N. Dash’s paintings recently on display at Casey Kaplan, with their radically blown-up images of nubs of fabric and other household remnants, provide immediate visual motivation to leap the obstacles.
Centrally positioned, softly focused, and enhanced by unobtrusive colors, the subject is smothered in attention and anchored in a quadrant referencing the history of domestic art. After a short look, the power of artistic tropes to determine the way we see becomes clear. At the same time, though, they tend to overwhelm the subject depicted. In a barrage of viewer instruction, tradition triumphs over content.
Dash is intently and earnestly investigating form and color as well as material. In each instance, however, the artist diminishes the core strength of the admittedly mundane stuff chosen as the basis for a particular work – string, fabric, insulation – by ensconcing it too rigidly in forms closely associated with traditional art. The original material thus becomes both alien and dead to the viewer, and seems to be relegated to the status of a mere object of exploitation for aesthetic purposes. The effect is more enervating than edgy.
N. Dash’s pieces incorporate neither the conflict nor the radicalism of work like Charles Spurrier’s or even Gedi Sibony’s. Yet it’s clear that Dash is trying valiantly to meet a challenge that many contemporary artists recognize and take on: that of adding piquancy to tradition without jettisoning its comfort and stability. If she doesn’t completely succeed, she does give strong indications that, in time, she might. It is a matter of celebrating the underlying object more explicitly and thus more equitably.
“N. Dash: New Paintings,” Casey Kaplan, 121 West 27th Street, New York, NY. September 5 through October 26, 2019. Look for N. Dash’s solo show opening at the Museum of Contemporary art Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA, November 22, 2019 – February 16, 2020.
About the Author: Curtis Mitchell lives and works in New York. He has been exhibiting internationally since 1983 and is currently teaching at NYU and Pratt.