Visual Art 9-26-2003

If You Give a Shit About Painting, Come to This Party

In a house on 6th Street off of Broadway is a new gallery, Image Dump. It's on the second floor-- a full-on tracklighted space full of paintings that cast a sensual formalist spell. Opening party 8 pm, Sat., Sept. 27.


What About Aesthetics: New Work by Daniel Kaniess at Image Dump
Opening reception 8 pm Saturday September 27,
hours by appointment
1118 6th Street NE, Minneapolis
612. 379.2133

Daniel Kaniess has been exhibiting locally and regionally for years. Those familiar with his work from previous solo exhibitions at Montgomery Glasoe Fine Art, Gus Lucky’s, and Speedboat Gallery have found him preoccupied with the figure. Summoned forth from amorphous smears of painted ground, Kaniess’s swimmers, slouchers, and falling men glance out at the viewer tentatively, as if threatening to melt back into the material of their making. Apparently, they have done so.

In his new show entitled What About Aesthetics at Image Dump, a new gallery in Northeast Minneapolis, Kaniess has abandoned the human figure and has turned his concentration and considerable energy toward an investigation of the expressive potential of the formal properties of paint, color, line, form, and texture. There is, in fact, something reverential and stoic about this show, as Kaniess is both paying homage to the practice of painting itself, and to past masters of abstract form, while at the same time testing himself, seeing what significant things he can say with the most basic rhetoric of his art.

The large paintings on canvas command the show. Here, Kaniess creates rich grounds with complex layers of color, which are at once understated and marvelously complex. Through a process of layering and scraping, Kaniess achieves effects of space, light, and atmosphere with intense areas of color shimmering through openings in misty veils of gray. Scrawls of black brushwork punctuate these variegated visual fields.

Kaniess’s deft marks are perfectly poised between the beautiful gestures of abstract expressionism and the hasty scribbles of street graffiti, and like some magical pictographic language communicate meanings in intense expressive bursts. Paintings like Humming, Jelly, and Milkweed (all works 2003) make even an avid postmodernist like myself believe the expressionist theories of correspondence, which hypothesize that sounds and even tastes can be communicated directly through the agency of pure color and form. The specificity of the “snap” of a black gestural line in one of Kaniess’s works or the “plop” of rounded form in another have every bit the decisiveness and clarity of the sound of a hand clap or, as Kandinsky would say, the vibration of a piano string.

With the smaller drawings in paint Kaniess demonstrates a remarkable ability to bring his own images into dialogue with the materials that serve as their support . Kaniess scavenges old books from secondhand shops, and collects used sketchbooks that have long since been discarded by their owners. He paints on their pages. In Worra, an aging page printed in an unfamiliar language is seen through a lightly applied white wash, while Kaniess’s calligraphic brushstrokes glide across this milky surface like an insect scampering across water. A master of the palimpsest, Kaniess produces brushstrokes that dance across the surfaces of things without obscuring them. Rather, by virtue of his treatment Kaniess allows the viewer to better see individual pages cut from books or chunks of corrugated cardboard as found objects, or ready-mades in their own right.

There are three rooms of really good painting in this show, with a few quirky wall sculptures assembled from bits of scrap wood and rusted metal thrown into the mix. The sculptures are small and playful and offer a kind of respite from the concentrated commitment represented by the two-dimensional work. This show opens with a party on Saturday, September 27th at 8:00 pm, and will run for six weeks. Image Dump is open by appointment.