“Marcus Cain: Borrowed Light” and “Ky Anderson: Star School,” Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art

Marcus Cain, “Standard Deviation,” acrylic on canvas, 24” x 18”

Brooklyn-based Kansas City Art Institute alum Ky Anderson’s exhibit “Star School” is the result of a middle-of-the-night vision in which she imagined a series of paintings “filled with stars and the intricate structures used to view them.” Executed on paper and raw canvas in acrylic and oil stick, Anderson’s works veer between painting and drawing. “Stacked Viewing” on raw canvas collapses structures into abstract shapes that evoke a disorienting sense of interior and exterior experienced simultaneously. She divides the canvas with an intense turquoise line, while the bottom of the painting is held firm by a dark blue platform which helps to bind the painting’s compositional tension.

Ky Anderson, “Star Structure 20.1,” pigment, acrylic and oil stick on raw canvas, 54” x 50″
Ky Anderson, “Star School 19.12,” acrylic on paper, 40” x 27.5″

“Star School 19.1–19.5” comprises five separate paintings on paper exhibited as one contiguous image, although each has the gravitas to stand on its own. Mainly done in shades of blue and green with orange lines and shapes adding impact, the interaction of the forms and spatial relationships suggest fantasy structures that we enter only through a dreamscape.

“Mountains and Eyes” on raw canvas contains allusions to the stain paintings of Abstract Expressionist Helen Frankenthaler. Anderson’s unexpected color juxtapositions, including pink, mustard and lavender, heighten the impact of the counter-opposing shapes and lines. Anderson keeps the composition slightly out of balance and yet, paradoxically, it feels perfectly balanced.

Marcus Cain, well known to Kansas City audiences, and a Kansas City Art Institute graduate, focuses his current body of work on his exploration of light through his densely pigmented surfaces. He notes, “Among the constellation of themes that exist in my work, light is a subject to which I often return. Its reference has been as metaphor for cognitive awareness, inspiration, spirituality, its role in sensory perception, and the existential significance of its absence.”

“Marcus Cain: Alignments,” installation views

Working in acrylic paint on canvas, Cain layers the pigment until it becomes dimensional. Tight, repeating patterns of lines and gestures can begin to feel meditative as the viewer enters the aura of Cain’s paintings. Previous paintings have included small, clustered dots from which images emerge; here, the paintings vibrate with the interwoven patterns that often create a kind of hypnotic optic experience. In “Center Path”(2020), horizontal bands of crisscrossing lines suggest textile and surface design and the Pattern and Decoration movement of the 1970s in which the artists’ influences were wide ranging and far reaching—including weaving, wallpaper, quilts, Persian miniatures—with a particular focus on surface.

In “New Understanding,” the vertical and repeating bands of pattern begin to feel like an intimate language that references weaving, geometrics and visual illusions. The idea of light that Cain discusses in his artist’s statement isn’t pointedly apparent, yet through the compressed layers of pigment, a kind of luminosity emerges, as if the pigment itself — and how —Cain manipulates it, contains a mysterious and potent radiance.

Marcus Cain, “New Understanding,” acrylic on canvas, 84” x 60″
Marcus Cain, “Color alignments,” 2018, acrylic and latex on canvas, 62×60”

“Ky Anderson: Star School” and “Marcus Cain: Borrowed Light” continue at Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art, 2004 Baltimore, through March 21. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday and by appointment. For more information, 816.221.2626 or www.sherryleedy.com.

Dana Self

Dana Self is an arts writer who was a contemporary art curator for more than 13 years at museums in Kansas, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Missouri, including Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. She has organized roughly 100 exhibitions of emerging and midcareer artists. She is also marketing director for UMKC Conservatory.

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