Essentially a painting exhibition—the only exception a small antennae sculpture by Krysten Cunningham suspended from the ceiling—the Feelings and Power opening at Five Thirty Three also featured music from Jason Grier and Tha Jones and a remarkable performance by artist Dawn Kasper. Opening parties are without a doubt the best way to experience shows in this space; billed as “an exhibition of art and music,” it would seem that 50% of this show left the building after opening night.
Kasper’s performance set the tone for the night—beginning without warning in the midst of the crowd packed into the gallery space. Kasper literally unpacked her baggage for the surprised and instantly captivated audience, struggling with a tightly taped paper box bulging with books, paint, and tools while wearing a tiger mask and pig snout, providing a degree of anonymity to the private narrative about to unfold. Kasper’s unwillingness to take the direct approach to opening the container foreshadowed the performance’s circuitous treatment of intensely personal emotional content. Her frenzied, frenetic expression of childhood memory and loss was electric in its dejection and quiet its moments of reticence. Disjointed narrative, excerpted texts, and a manic performer fractured the fairy-tale; reality slipped further away as a glass liquor bottle shattered under the force of a hammer and cans of blue and white paint oozed across the concrete floor. Then, abruptly as she had appeared, Kasper was gone.
Seventeen paintings by twelve artists bore silent witness to the performance. Jason Yates’s Death of a Disco Dancer recalled Lucio Fontana with an unexpected adoration for surface, evidenced by the meticulous ink-rendered canvas. Kristen Calabrese’s art historical knowledge asserted itself in her humorous, petite oil-on-linen works Paint Sick HA HA and Backwards. Eli Langer’s Untitled was visually arresting in its narrative ambiguity, while Brenna Youngblood’s mixed-media painting hinted at an unexpected level of narrative clarity. Rowan Wood’s Cage and Joshua Aster’s Souldistraction faced each other across the gallery, squaring off with their richly patterned surfaces.
Feelings and Power, although a somewhat indistinct organizing theme, brought together a diverse and visually striking group of artworks that evinced the lasting power of painting as a contemporary art form.