Thursday, August 28, 2008

David Jon Kassan

David Jon Kassan
Brooklyn based artist David Jon Kassan was born in Arkansas and studied in Philadelphia, New York and Florence, Italy.

He has lectured, taught and given workshops at numerous universities and art centers, including the Rochester Institute of Technology, Western Illinois University, Syracuse University, National Academy School of Fine Art, the University of Alabama, the National Academy of Design and the Salmagundi Center of American Art.

On his web site you will find examples of his striking realist portrait and figurative paintings, in which he often contrasts the colors and textures of his subjects with the rough textures of age-worn urban interiors. He seems so fascinated with the latter that he actually does preparatory studies of wall sections, investigating the textures of aging plaster, exposed lath and peeling paint.

His real fascination, though, is portraiture, and specifically, the anatomy underlying the portrait and figure. There is a time-lapse video on his site of a portrait demonstration at the Salmagundi Club in New York, three hours condensed into 8 minutes (image above, lower right), in which you can see the emphasis he places on the underlying geometry of the face.

There is also a PDF booklet available for a modest fee, of An Artist’s Guide to Portrait Anatomicae, originally prepared for his students.

There is a selection of his drawings on the site. Though they are brought to a fairly high state of rendering, they are largely anatomical studies.

Kassan also has a blog, in which you can see some works in progress, studio and demonstration photos and a video showing his paintings on display at the L.A. Art Show.

His paintings show the kind of naturalistic fidelity that only comes from careful and incisive observation, combined with a solid grounding in traditional technique and anatomical study.

His palette is intentionally subdued, as are his compositions, so that the highest chroma passages are often in the warm skin tones in faces where small blood vessels run closest to the surface.

[Link courtesy of Michael Connors]

9 thoughts on “David Jon Kassan

  1. Daniel van Benthuysen

    An excellent post, Charley, and an excellent subject about whom to post as well. It’s worth noting that Kassan, now 31, has been something of an art world phenom: He began attracting national recognition and awards in his mid twenties.

  2. beno

    I really dont see anything special in these paintings. A lot of time consuming work and no talent. We have cameras for stuff like this nowdays. Fred Ross from Artrenewal would probably like Kassan’s art, since he adores emotionally empty art of (deservedly) forgotten Salon painters.

  3. Charley Parker Post author

    Thanks for your comment.

    Obviously, I disagree, but that’s one of the most interesting things about art, the way different art speaks to different people.

    Though I disagree with Ross on a number of things (like the presumptive status of Bouguereau), I also like a lot of (undeservedly) forgotten Salon painters. “Emotionally empty” is a judgement open to interpretation, based on the emotional response of the viewer doing the assessment, but I appreciate you taking the time to voice your point of view.

  4. Mark Morris

    This artist is amazingly talented and skilled. Thanks for introducing him to me.

    Unlike Beno, I CAN see emotion in this painting. It takes a lot of talent to do this kind of painting.

    It does not take much talent to make scribbles and scrawls on a flat plane–like David Hockney. The same David Hockney who thinks that the old masters couldn’t draw too well.
    I am so incredibly tired of hacks, charlatans, those full of themselves and their supporters running down artists whose jockstrap they could not hold.
    I would also say that I am tired of contemporary Modernists and Post-Modernists passing off a bankruptcy of creativity and talent as true art.

    Sorry but it has been a long night at work and I have been thinking about this subject now for quite awhile.

  5. Craig Garber

    Charley, thanks for this post. Kassan is incredibly talented and painstakingly detailed. Also, you are to be commended for your PC response to the nitwit who left the post that said, “I don’t see anything special in these paintings.”

  6. Belinda Del Pesco

    This was my first introduction to Kassan. Thank you. I spent a good portion of my evening happily fawning over his work. His portrait demo is amazing. He writes that the 3 hour drawing was a bit cursory for him, compared to the normal 10-15 hours he puts into a study. What a thought provoking testimonial to the amount of time one should invest in seeing, and carefully rendering a subject. His mastery of form and values is wonderful to watch in action. Very inspiring.

  7. Daniel van Benthuysen

    I’m glad Mr. Morris likes Kassan’s work and gives him more credit than Beno does. But I have to disagree with Mr. Morris’s interpretation of David Hockney, Mr. Hockney’s talent and Mr. Hockney’s assertions about what the old masters could or could not do.

    First, I think it’s abundantly clear from paintings and drawings early in Hockney’s career that he acquits himself as a VERY capable draftsman. What he has chosen to do with his skills in the decades since is open to interpretation, but I don’t think there is anything in his work to suggest he deserves to be lumped with “hacks and charlatans.”

    2nd, Mr. Morris ought to take a closer look at the Hockney treatise, “Secret Knowledge”. Hockney does not maintain that the old masters “couldn’t draw too well.” If I suggested you use a ruler to help you draw a straight line, would that be equivalent to suggesting YOU can’t draw too well? Hockney simply says that in addition to what they knew and could do, they ALSO took advantage of an emerging technology. Does the fact that Vermeer used a camera obscura somehow diminish his accomplishments? I think not, and yet it’s almost certain he did use such a device.

    Lastly, I don’t agree with the sweeping assertion that Modernists and Post-modernists are bankrupt of creativity and talent. I consider myself a pretty traditional representational painter but my work is influenced by all sorts of modernists like Diebenkorn, De Kooning, Milton Avery and other 20th and 21st century artists.

    Mr. Morris might consider that the mind is like a parachute: it operates best when it’s open. Besides, even when you dislike it or disapprove of it, art can’t hurt you.

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