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Kohn Gallery

Kate Barbee at Kohn Gallery

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A new exhibition of paintings by Kate Barbee abandons the precious sanctity of the canvas. In rosy paintings, figures swirl and mingle, limbs jut out at impossible angles. Just as her figures are deconstructed in a pseudo-Cubist style, her paintings too are cut apart and then stitched back together. The artist approaches each new work with a bevy of older “failed paintings” that she repurposes into her new compositions, cutting each piece along the silhouette of each painted head or potted plant. With embroidery thread, Barbee sutures old onto new, collapsing imagery to create textural tapestries. The embroidery thread encircling each painting scrap is applied in neat rows, creating dashed patterning across each painting that draws the eye in and out of Barbee’s lush painted scenes.

During this very, ahem, domestic-focused year, many of us have become all too familiar with our own inhabited spaces and much of Barbee’s paintings focus on domestic space — house plants and plush couches mill about her floating figures. In the largest work in the show, “Nesting” an interior life plays out across the canvas, with little scenes quilted together to build into a narrative tableau. Various rooms of a house are depicted along with a female figure lounging within warm hues and floral details. “I’ve started to really notice my chairs and daydream about architecture, occupying my nest,” Barbee told me.

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Photo: Kate Barbee, “Blue Moon,” 2020. Image courtesy of the artist and Kohn Gallery.