“Today O’Clock”: Kellen Chasuk @ pt.2 gallery, Oakland

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pt.2 gallery, Oakland // January 07, 2023 – February 11, 2023

pt. 2 Gallery is proud to present Today O’Clock, a solo exhibition by Massachusetts based artist Kellen Chasuk, the artist’s second solo exhibition with the gallery. Through a series of paintings that veer between figuration and graphic mantras that bleed into abstraction, Chasuk’s self-deprecating humor is equally matched by the artist’s confident paint handling and gestural style, providing a diaristic and symbolic examination of maturity and the lack thereof.

Today O’Clock as an exhibition reads as a series woven from multiple threads, portraits of people and food are presented next to colorful abstractions composed of overlapping circles and ovals, melting into textual pieces composed from the same layered shapes, each letter broken down into countless segments of color. The text based works read “Today O’Clock”, “Don’t Be a Brat” and “No More Diets”, feeling as if they could be reminders to oneself or an internalized stern warning from an overbearing elder. Yet through the artist’s process of dissecting letters into a litany of complementing colors, the words feel camouflaged and softened, more thoughtful meditations than a quick reproach.

The paintings of food share a similar kind of dualism. What at first conveys as a luxurious painting of six oysters on the half shell laying in a semicircle on a bed of ice, turns darker as two lemon wedges and a pair of cups of red cocktail sauce form a wonky smiling skeletal face. In another work a burger sits in front of a line cook with head bowed, a red heat lamp realized with a misting of masked red spray paint beats down on both the food and its weary maker. And what seems like the lightest of the trio, a painting of a thick slice of cake captured with a fluidity and simplicity of color and form recalling Thiebaud, becomes significantly darker as we learn the title “Funeral Cake”, a black background hinting at the somber atmosphere.

The figurative works are perhaps the artist’s most varied, some feeling diaristic while others become abstracted and symbolic. In what could be a self portrait of the artist, a head painted in cool tones hovers over a flattened form covered in a repeating floral pattern. A book covering the bottom half of the canvas lies open oversized hands in turquoise and purple along either side. The book’s warm off-white pages are notably empty, devoid of text, suggesting reading as more of an aspirational than practiced act–a reality that so many of us bemoan glued to our screens. Contrasting the intimate feel of the previous painting is the artist’s most abstracted figure, a profile of a maroon head set against a pinkish background, a brown clock with loose numbers holding the place where the brain should be. The time reads roughly 3:30, am or pm not denoted, yet although the book piece feels calm this reddish work is steeped in anxiety, the pressures of time and scheduling absorbing any and all space for independent thought.

While the open narrative created by Kellen Chasuk’s varied paintings leads to so many unexpected places, the recurring struggle between immaturity and maturity is best realized in one of the show’s largest paintings. “The Thumbsucker”, a wide canvas draped in a rich royal blue background with a large red hand dominating the left half of the canvas, lips clutching the thumb while the rest of the face is simply painted in greens and blues, abstracted apple green eyes dart sheepishly as if wondering if anyone is watching this primal act of early childhood comforting. It’s within those uncomfortable eyes that this awkward dance incapsulating so much of Kellen Chasuk’s Today O’Clock unfurls–the striving for self reliance, for weening, for comfort and for the ever shifting target of adulthood whatever that elusive concept means today.

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