Installation view of Kevin Beasley: Reunion, Casey Kaplan, New York (©Kevin Beasley, all images courtesy the artist and Casey Kaplan, New York; photo by Jason Wyche)

Kevin Beasley’s recent works inspire a yearning for the ability to touch. On view at Casey Kaplan, the sculptures’ floral textile patterns belie their hard surfaces. They appear crafted from stone, eschewing the softness of fabric. Along with the works’ tangible nature, they engender a profound sense of emotion. The exhibition’s title, Reunion, refers to Beasley’s tradition of attending his family’s annual gathering in Virginia — cancelled this year due to the pandemic, like so much else.

Kevin Beasley, “Field VI” (2020), polyurethane resin, raw Virginia cotton, house dresses, dye-sublimation printed t-shirts, t-shirts, altered house dresses, gold powder, carbon fiber, 78 x 59.5 x 2 inches (©Kevin Beasley; photo by Jason Wyche)

A metamorphosis from soft to hard, “The Road” (2019) alludes to Beasley’s journeys from his hometown of Lynchburg to the annual reunion in Valentines. The work utilizes raw cotton, a recurring material in Beasley’s sculptural practice, from a farm near his family’s home. A resin cast bestows its presumably hard-to-the-touch surface. Similarly, “Field VI” (2020) and “Field II” (2020) comprise a blend of cotton, polyester house dresses (from a Harlem store where Beasley’s grandmothers shopped), and resin. Although made using the formal strategies of assemblage, the works appear as abstract expressionist paintings — replete with vibrant swirls of orange, red, green, and purple.

In conjuring the materiality and memories of traditions disrupted by the pandemic, Beasley’s works express reverence for his family reunion — tributes that mark its absence this year.

Kevin Beasley: Reunion continues through October 24 at Casey Kaplan (121 West 27th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan). 

Alexandra M. Thomas is a PhD student in History of Art, African American Studies, and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Yale University. Her research interests include: global modern and contemporary...