THE ANATOMY OF A PAINTING, MOAH Lancaster, August 10 – October 20, 2019 On the collaborative work of Kaye Freeman and Amy Kaps
Amy Kaps presents an exhibition with Kaye Freeman that indeed is primarily painting, but at the same time spatial, sculptural and performative. Amy writes about the collaboration:
"My role as curator morphed into that of catalyst, collaborator, and cohort.
In the exhibition What's Black and White and Pink allover (2018), Amy took over MOAH Lancaster's off-space "Cedar" by wrapping it in black and white stripes with pink accents - an aesthetic she has chosen for past decade that recalls the graphic and repetitive patterns of Op-Art. Camouflaged in precisely these colors and patterns, she appeared as a performer in the setting - photographs, created in collaboration with Eric Schwabel, of her fictional figure were shown on the walls. The woman, covered in black and white stripes, sometimes with a pink wig covering her face, has no name. When asked who she is, Amy simply says: "She's black and white and pink allover!“ There is a strange simultaneity of anonymization - without face, without name, without qualities - and at the same time an extreme personalization not only of her figure, but of the whole surrounding space. As she becomes an object, the whole room becomes Amy Kaps.
After visiting Amy's exhibition, Kaye Freeman was inspired to paint a black and pink striped three- dimensional object floating in space into "The Emperor's Nemesis", which she was working on then. The stripes in the painting seem to reflect the bright, striking colors Kaye uses. Amy also hides in this painted space - camouflaged. This initiative by Kaye marks the starting point for mutual inspiration and, finally, cooperation. It is also the oldest painting to be seen in the exhibition.
When Amy was offered to curate a part of the exhibition "L.A. Painting" at MOAH Lancaster, she decided to work with Kaye Freeman in a way that would suit her own practice. All the works in the exhibition were then produced in collaboration and instead of hanging paintings on the wall, they tested both performative elements of painting and the limits of spatial installation.
Before Kaye begins painting, Amy prints her naked body on the white canvases, runs over them, stamps her hands, pulls her color-soaked hair over the white surfaces, and lays out a path for the painting to follow (the creation process can be traced on the instagram page). In body prints one immediately sees Yves Klein dressed in a suit and tie, as he uses naked female bodies to apply his striking blue to large canvases in front of an audience. Scandal then, icons today, firmly anchored in collective cultural memory.
1 Curator's statement:
So it is also a fact that in order to show the actual performative, painting act, no one needs to show it. The pictures of this historical happening are immediately in your mind. But precisely in contrast to this, here it is a collaborative and intimate working process that is only visible on the canvas. The woman, used by Klein to apply the paint2 becomes an independent, conducting actor and the curatorial act, the equal artistic collaboration, is anchored in painting as happening, as momentum. "An intimacy developed if for no other reason than that Kaye was rolling paint onto my nude body."3
As in her exhibition at the MOAH: Cedar, she then appears again in the setting of the exhibition in costume. Camouflaged with snippets of photographs of her own naked body and fragmentary pieces of Kaye's painting. But unlike before, a moment occurs in which the body printed on the paintings becomes visible, personalized. And a performative, temporal continuum becomes all the clearer to the visitor.
Amy brings the technique of body prints into the collaboration. She has long been involved with Klein, most recently in the series “Waiting for Yves”, for which she prints her body on chairs in black, white and pink.
In this context, certain characteristics of Kaye's painting become particularly evident. Growing up in Japan, a proximity to the gestural aesthetics of calligraphy is not surprising. This is especially
visible in small formats, "beginnings 1-5" (not to be seen in the exhibition), which are reminiscent of characters. Amy then applied sponges soaked in pink paint on the painting of Kaye. An analogy to her own body appearing on canvas - a sketch - and also a Yves Klein quotation.
A decisive aspect of abstract expressionist painting is the distinctive appearance of painting as a gesture. The painterly gesture is at the same time a snapshot of a moment that is visualized both by the action and by chance. Despite the detachment from narrative, the physical act of painting is clearly visible and at the same time a temporal moment is captured – so also in Klein's Anthropometries. Kaye's body awareness is not least due to her career as a dancer. Yet although Kaye's painting is strongly gestural and the context is interesting in this connection, her urban, radiant and abysmal landscapes contain a narrative that is more influenced by artists like Frank Alba and Sally Gabori. The narrative is underlined not least by the existence of titles that usually open up levels and spaces of interpretation without concretely defining their boundaries. Nevertheless, one can say that the title 'Anatomy of a painting' seems to make sense in two ways: at first, of course, it is understood in the process of creating the body prints described above, but on another level it is also understood in the various physicality of Kaye's works.
2 The evaluation in a feministic discourse is subjective and variable, depending on the mode of observation, see
Feminism and Yves Klein’s Anthropometries
3 Curator's statement
The largest work of the exhibition "The Seven Winds" measures 10 x 29 feet and occupies the largest wall opposite the entrance. An urban landscape, not dissimilar to the view from Kaye's studio in Los Angeles Downtown - which both artists have shared since August 2019 - under a pink sky, in front of the landscape flow bodies, streams of color and lines. It's not only the powerful, oversized painting that meets you, but literally the canvas that protrudes into the room in a bend in the left corner. In dialogue with this, on the opposite wall there are five long, upright works representing the elements: water, fire and air, to the left of the entrance earth and metal on the right. The canvases are paintings and collages, almost sculptural, which is emphasized by the work "Metal" hanging from the ceiling in the right corner. The titles are reminiscent of pre-modern notions of nature, but deliberately avoid a concrete classification. There is, for example, the four- element theory with water, fire, air and earth, which is influenced by Greek philosophy and to which the vaguely quintessential fifth element is added in alchemy, while the Chinese five-element theory knows wood, fire, metal, water and earth. The seven winds also suggest similar principles, but the title is derived from Yma Sumac's song "Wanka (The Seven Winds)". With these references to theories ranging from esotericism to science, it at least becomes clear to me that they are created by humans. Like painting, alchemical or mythological theories, for example, are ultimately only man-made projections that feed on their surroundings, nature, the city, etc., but are also always subjective and relative.
Both artists are connected by a practice that processes the physical, gestural, both conceptually and aesthetically, an interface that was helpful as a fruitful starting point for cooperation. The technique of the body print has an original and archaic context and simultaneously combines modern techniques between performance and image. Both work with their very own aesthetics with a high recognition value and both open up poetic spaces in which there is room for the viewer's associations and projections.
These are some subjective thoughts and information that I was able to gain from conversations and observations on the work of the two. But actually this painting goes through the eyes into the mind.
Helena Kuhlmann: Art historian