Just a Shot Away (2015) references the Rolling Stones' song “Gimme Shelter,” in which background singers mournfully repeat, “Rape, murder.” Kass made the piece during the first wave of Black Lives Matters protests. Its color palette—black and blue—simultaneously references police violence against people of color, and Ellsworth Kelly’s black and blue Minimalist works. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, we might also read something hopeful in these words, as a return to public life is theoretically just a (vaccination) shot away. Appearing simple at a distance, this piece has one of Kass' most active, lively surfaces of recent years. The vibrant blue almost feels as if it's glowing on the surface of the canvas, fighting its way through delicately applied layers of velvety black foreground.
This painting is part of Kass' No Kidding series (2015–present). No Kidding deploys the aesthetic formalism of Post-War Abstraction, as did her feel good paintings for feel bad times. But the mood has changed. The palette has shifted to dark colors and the surfaces of the paintings are worn and washed out. Setting the series apart is the incorporation of neon. Seemingly positive lyrical phrases such as "Happy Days Are Here Again" and "We'll Be Young Forever" contrast with a sense that everything is not all right. The colors and text in the works reference issues like women's health, climate change, and institutional racism. Among the most potent pieces in the series use the words and colors black and blue, alluding to, among other things, police violence against people of color.
This is a 4-panel piece. To install, each panel hangs on screws, one on top of the other.
Artist Studio, NYC Kavi Gupta, Chicago
Debrah Kass, NO KIDDING, Paul Kasmin Gallery, NYC, 2016 Expo Chicago, 2019 Deborah Kass, Painting and Sculpture, Kavi Gupta, Chicago, 2020