Jeffrey Kessel, Untitled, 2011, oil on canvas, 72” x 59”
Thierry-Goldberg Gallery is pleased to present a solo show of abstract paintings by New York-based Jeffrey Kessel. Often using various forms of destruction in his working process, Kessel aggressively scrapes off, wipes away, cuts down and beats up the canvas, to bring his compositions to a heightened state of tension.
While the shadows of past practitioners are certainly present in his works, Kessel never dwells on historical tropes, focusing instead on his own game plan. Preferring to work directly on stretched canvas, with no preparatory sketches or studies, his ideas germinate when his brush touches the surface. Starting off with a structure of some sort, usually created with a few minimal lines or strokes of the brush, Kessel usually wipes them down with a rag or scrapes them away with a large piece of cardboard, having no preconceived notion of where he will go next.
Dripping, spattering, pouring, and scraping with a trowel are other ways he manipulates his medium, which he lets expand and evolve rather than control. Colorful drips and spatters hide below broad swaths of thinly applied inky scrapes, blobs of color hang delicately over calligraphic forms, and black spots bleed through the mist. Kessel sometimes unstretches the canvas from the bars, crumples it up and restretches it, creating a new problem to be resolved with the addition of layers of paint. Despite this, he is not obsessive about the process itself, as can be seen in the varying surface textures present in the work. Thick or thin, chunky or ephemeral; all exist in the world of Kessel’s abstractions.
Kessel’s surfaces exhibit a need to be free from constraints, where the gesture often extends and reaches beyond the edge of the canvas. With no discernable foreground, middle-ground or background, it is up to the viewers to interpret each work for themselves. Perhaps Kessel is determined to create a conundrum, since he doesn’t seem satisfied to have closure with individual works or as a whole. Like a band that knows exactly when to get off the stage, he leaves us wanting more.
Jeffrey Kessel (b. 1978) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. He received his MFA in painting from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2006 and his BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art in 2003. His work was included in exhibitions at Derek Eller Gallery (solo) and Bortolami Gallery, both in New York. Kessel’s work has been reviewed and featured in Time Out New York, and Artcritical. This is his first exhibition with Thierry Goldberg Gallery.