1300 Gallery Hosts a Celebration of the Life and Art of Stephen Kasner This Weekend

Cleveland lost the great Cleveland artist three years ago

click to enlarge "Revolver" - Stephen Kasner
Stephen Kasner

The 1300 gallery will this weekend present "Memento - A Celebration of the Life and Art of Stephen Kasner," a Cleveland-born and Cleveland-raised artist who passed away in December 2019 at the age of 49.

The show, which opens on Friday from 5 to 9 p.m., will span his 20-year career and includes paintings, prints, pen-and-ink renderings, books and more.

Kasner’s family, as well as close friend Thomas Heywood and Martin Geramita of Derek Hess's 1300 Gallery, helped manifest this exhibition.

It is no surprise Hess’s gallery is hosting this event. After all, Kasner, like Hess, did plenty of work of work on band posters and album covers over the years.

In general Kasner's work offers a murky darkness, like a hazy recollection of a memory or a sonogram of a story you’ve embellished so many times you can’t recall which parts are true anymore.

“Dreams, memory and the refinement of crystallized moments remain the primary forces propelling my work, in an effort to create a continuous, fluid recording of a life in flux. It is, though, equally my goal to allow the paintings to exist independently, on their own, and beyond my personal realm of exploration," he wrote in a book published in 2007.

“Stephen was uniquely able to tap DEEPLY into the liminal spaces of the soul and to compellingly represent on canvas the stunning beauty he found in places few of us dare to look,” said Geramita. “His willingness to reach for the void and show us what he found was an uncommon gift to anyone who’d see what he wanted to share—nightmares, refined by his gifts into art of tremendous complexity and even serenity.”

In the piece “Revolver,” Kasner depicts a dark male figure, haloed by what appears to be a tombstone, looking as if he has injected himself into the cosmos via the horseshoe nebula. One of the three hands in the frame holds an upside-down heart that has been set aflame while the other two hands dangle pearl necklaces of starlight and butterflies flutter along the wrists.

The layering technique in this image looks to be a combination of photography, painting and other pigment, but it is difficult to discern. Perhaps it is a commentary on the impermanence of existence, micro and macrocosmic infiniteness, the cycle of life, loss, love and the death, but your guess is as good as mine. The one thing I am aware of, however, is the etherealness and resplendence of the image with its well-balanced contrast from dark to brilliant, colors like bursts of dust and light in space, its etching-like textures and underlining renaissance compositional leanings.

“Stephen was always marching to the beat of his own drummer. He had a unique way of seeing the beauty in everything; even what many people would consider hideous or grotesque. His dreams would inspire many, if not all, of his creative visions and his hands often guided him subconsciously. He will forever live in our hearts and we encourage all who loved him or adored his works to come and celebrate his life with us this October," his family said in a statement.
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