|Graciela Cassel challenges us to see in a new way. Evident in all her work, from paintings to "boxes," is an obsession with movement. Cassel devises techniques to disclose the imperceptible immanent in every instant, inviting us to see the "present" from another perspective, not as what is given to us in our ordinary experience of space and time, but instead as essentially characterized by transformation and metamorphosis.|
Graciela Cassel – Christine Kennedy
Graciela Cassel challenges us to see in a new way. Evident in all her work, from paintings to "boxes," is an obsession with movement. Cassel devises techniques to disclose the imperceptible immanent in every instant, inviting us to see the "present" from another perspective, not as what is given to us in our ordinary experience of space and time, but instead as essentially characterized by transformation and metamorphosis.
Our usual way of seeing becomes, for Cassel, an oversight, a tendency to assimilate and cohere the ambiguities inherent in the flow of experience. Cassel wants us to "see movement" in each and every moment. When Cassel explores the modalities of space and time, motion becomes a constant, and movement a "present" that is always involved in a process of becoming other. Reality is not quite a flux of some indeterminate matter, but rather a layering of temporal modes, the potential in any given moment to reference some other timeframe. We are required to adjust our perception. By employing a technique of multiple overlays of the same image (that are slightly different from one another), Cassel is able to depict diverse modalities of time as an event of a single moment. Time contracts and expands in a present that is undecidable, and the effect is essentially cinematic, a blinking put to canvas.
Cassel’s ability to employ a variety of techniques, diverse modes of representing the modalities of space and time, has allowed her to develop a language that sets in motion the apparent stasis of the present. Her "boxes" provide yet another context for working out her concept of the dynamics of space and time.
In the series of "9/11 Shadow Boxes," Cassel creates three-dimensional environments in which interior and exterior space are structurally distinguished and yet inevitably challenged. Abstract interiors, which are emptied of all content except for a single staircase, serve as small theatre spaces. In the foreground, painted on glass are "characters," Cassel’s term for painted human figures that are caught mid-performance in a variety of acrobatic poses. These figures, dancing, tumbling and posing, cast shadows on the interior of the boxes. Inside and outside become relative; neither inside nor outside, these figures inhabitant a space that is mobile and shifting. Likewise, inside and outside are metaphorically linked to the way these figures relate to their world.
The effect: curious theatres of characters in motion, acrobatic and weightless, neither self-propelled wheels nor hand puppets or marionettes, each engaged in a dance, each suspended in a movement of falling or ascending. Cassel presents us with a theatre of figures in motion that is at once dynamic and fixed, a mobile immobility, a movement and dance caught in mid-motion.
The title for these works, "9/11 Shadow Boxes," is unfortunately mysterious, idiosyncratic at best, and ultimately undecipherable, confusing us with a point of reference that detracts from our experience of her boxes by inviting interpretations that could amount to little more than platitudes. Is the title a commentary on an experience of loss, isolation or fear? Interpretations in this vein stray from the essential sensibility of Cassel, who, in all her work, presents a vision of reality, even truth, that is essentially affirmative, even if ambiguous. Perhaps we are better off considering these "9/11 Boxes" as the artist’s personal, emotional record or response.
Cassel’s figures, moving in different directions, aimless and without purpose, are neither disengaged from their world nor disillusioned. There is no spirit of gravity here, only a benign optimism, an optimism in the details, pointed toes, a dancer’s pose, a theatrics of gesture that suffuses the environment of these figures with a mood of enchantment. There is loneliness, but no existential angst here, and falling, while depicted as a possibility, is not threatening nor anxiety-producing. Falling is less the angst of standing on the edge of a precipice than the anticipation of descent when one reaches the top of a roller coaster; while some of us raise our arms, others close their eyes, still others hold onto those next to them. Cassel gives us "a falling in painting" as the thrill of ascending and descending.
The pathos of human existence without debilitating obsession, need without desire, a vision in which nothing is consummated and fulfillment is barred, Cassel’s characters express a longing that does not end in satisfaction. This is life as movement and dance.
Her series of "9/11 Boxes," on the whole, mark a departure from the use of ancient and symbolic images that one finds in her earlier boxes. This is refreshing. The "9/11 Boxes" take us further in the direction of an experience of pure movement.
In her recent "Garden" series, Cassel gives us paintings that are devoid of all narrative. In these paintings, "gardens in movement," one can barely detect a "still life." These paintings disclose a dimension that challenges our conventional experience of objects in space and time. Casell takes us elsewhere, and the result is that we are exposed to sheer force in the pleasure of seeing.
The psychic detritus of cultural memory, that was present in earlier works, implodes in a big bang. In her "Garden" paintings, Cassel’s obsession with exploring the spatial/temporal dimension of reality culminates is a pure cosmic dance of color in motion. Here we see flowers that dance and a frenzied excess of movement. Her garden paintings are an affirmative of life and movement.