October 31, 2013

Art Review: Grains of truth from Cassie Jones

‘Foreign Matter’ – paintings by Cassie Jones - is on view through Saturday at Aucocisco.

By Daniel Kany

Cassie Jones makes upbeat paintings. Jovial, jocular and bouncy, they pop and zing. They look as though they would crackle with electricity if you run your hands over them.

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“To the Start”

Images courtesy of Aucocisco Galleries/Photography by Luc Demers

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“Like the Dickens”

Images courtesy of Aucocisco Galleries

Additional Photos Below



WHERE: Aucocisco, 89 Exchange St., Portland

WHEN: Through Saturday

HOURS: Noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday and by appointment

INFO: 775-2222; aucocisco.com

Jones’s show at Aucociso features several dozen of her mostly intimate-scaled pieces (half of which were sold by or at the opening).

Jones makes paintings that are approachable and easy to enjoy – in part because they don’t require any explanation. In fact, they deny explanation: A few colors in clear, jaunty forms are easy enough to recognize as a painting that isn’t hiding anything from you. They are not veiled narratives or secret symbols or labyrinthine rebuses. Consequently, there are no barriers between the viewer and the work: It’s all right there in front of you.

But that doesn’t mean Jones’s work isn’t smart or doesn’t convey meaning – because it is and it does. Their intelligence lies in the space between “reference” and “elicit.” They set your mind moving as if you were at a dance rather than walking to the store.

When I first saw the piece in the gallery window, I thought “gumdrops.” I then thought of Dots (naked gumdrops that were a staple of ’70s movie-theater candy counters – now making a comeback) both because of texture and aesthetics. This was not the case of my parsing Jones’s references, but rather sifting through my own associations – which, while hardly triumphant, is fun.

The texture issue matters because the paintings in question are not made with brush and paint, but colored sand. The Dots/gumdrops distinction also brings up the retro aesthetics driving Jones’s painting.

Colored craft sand as paint is a fantastic tool in Jones’s hands – particularly if you are familiar with her previous work, and most notably her felt paintings (poofy, inflated and candy-colored wall pieces that look like balloon-animal paintings fresh off the set of “Yellow Submarine”). Familiarity with Jones’s previous bodies of work makes it clear she is taking her ideas and her sensibilities further and farther down the long and winding road. It is precisely not the student-quality zeal we so often see with encaustic newbies (“Look, encaustic!”) or watercolor rookies (“Look, I made an effect!”). Rather, changing media only makes it clearer that Jones has a vision and an unfakeable feel to her work.

The sand not only takes the brush out of the equation, but it removes texture as a variable, thereby unifying the image in one bold stroke. It also sets the conceptual clock a-ticking. The 29-inch-square “The Mix,” for example, features about 500 “dots” jumbled on the surface. While I went to “candy,” others, no doubt, will first think of a close-up of a Seurat painting, or a video screen, or marbles, or – ironically enough – bits of colored sand all jumbled together. And not only does Jones reach to the logic of pixilation, but she deftly juggles its representational (epistemological) and even philosophical (ontological) associations.

Is it stretch to pull Rationalist philosophy and, specifically, Gottfried Leibniz’s concept of monads, out of Jones’s Candyland-flavored hat?


First of all, Jones not only graduated from Bowdoin College – where I learned about Leibniz and other philosophers (thank you, Larry Lutchmansing!) – but she’s still very much attached to Bowdoin and its intellectual community.

Secondly, and more importantly, the ideas of Rationalism and “monadology” now pervade contemporary thinking about representation (pixelization, binary logic, etc), physics (String Theory, the “God” particle, etc.), as well as art (Pollack and the “allover” lack of figure/ground distinction, digital photography, game theory, and so on – the 2013 PMA Biennial is loaded with works pursuing such ideas: Kievett, Rogenes, Beck, Fensterstock, Bullitt, Cawley and many others).

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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“Over and Out”

Images courtesy of Aucocisco Galleries

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Images courtesy of Aucocisco Galleries


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