A simple syntactical swap and what’s “OK” – cool, composed, or as one etymology suggests, all correct – shifts to “KO” – knocked out, thrown off, letting it all hang out with abandon. OK/KO, an exhibition of new paintings by Kate Parnell at Court Square, hinges from this symmetrical but oppositional dialectic, while tracing and traversing the slips and flip-flops between.

In works on wall, paper, and canvas, distinct moves come into contact, or confrontation: restrained, controlled, and light-as-air abstractions characterized by pared-down planes of color and line meet saturated agglomerations of expressive, personal iconography. Dichotomies of abstraction and figuration relate to similar thematic dualities at play in the work, of positive/negative, consciousness/semi-consciousness, comic/tragic, not to mention head/gut. Evoked throughout is the question: how might such oppositional states condition perception and characterize image making?

Circulating among the works, a shifting lexicon culminates into loose, visual narratives informed by TV sales pitches, emotional story arcs, and over familiarity with the character actors who inhabit these fictional worlds, and which become, or occasionally become, refuges for their watcher.  Eyes or glasses, shaded, reflective, leering, or comedic, watchful and wakeful, are recurrent. The eye alludes to conditions of vision – seeing/not seeing, being seen/invisibility – as well as the self-consciousness of being watched versus the freedom and isolation of going unseen. Painted as a fragmented orb, the eyeball deconstructs into a diagram of received light passing through the pupil, an optical proscenium between the perceptual and psychological, a mirror or prism where seeing meets thinking and feeling. The active jostle between OK and KO in eye, mind, and body persists within these paintings, and confronting their viewer, they imply: I’m watching.

Kate Parnell received her MFA from Bard College in 2009 and her BFA from The Cooper Union in 2004. She lives and works in Washington D.C.

court square
21-44 45th Ave, #2
LIC, NY www.ctsq.info
organized by lisa williams