Ken Aptekar (American, b. 1950)
I Hate the Name Kenneth, 1996
- Oil on wood with sandblasted glass and bolts
- 69 x 120 7/8 x 3 in. (175.3 x 307.1 x 7.6 cm)
- The Jewish Museum, New York
- Purchase: Barbara S. Horowitz, Howard E. Rachofsky, Ruth M. and Stephen Durschlag, Marcia May, J.W. Heller Foundation, Michael L. Rosenberg, Helga and Samuel Feldman, Caroline B. Michahelles and Robert G. Pollock gifts, and Fine Arts Acquisitions Committe, 1997-26a-h
I Hate the Name Kenneth comprises eight glass panes overlaid and bolted to eight painted panels. The panels and panes are arranged in a two-by-four-foot horizontal grid.
The panels are painted with four individual portraits. Two panels, arranged vertically, are dedicated to each portrait, with the portraits arranged side-by-side.
Each portrait has a specific relationship to the two panels it occupies. On some, Aptekar has painted in the frames of the Kaufmann portraits. He has even painted their shadows. Some are tightly cropped. Others are shifted within the space of panels so there is blank white space above or below the portrait.
While the paintings are rendered as grey grisailles (a grisaille is a monotone painting or drawing), the artist has used different types of grey, some warm, some cool. From left to right, the portraits are in cool greys, warm greys, cool greys, and warm greys or, more specifically, blue grey, brown/taupe grey, green grey, and rose grey. Aptekar uses a gestural application of paint in the background space of each portrait, which in itself modernizes the Kaufmann portraits. The brushwork in the figures is less gestural but still more painterly than Kaufmann’s paintings.
Aptekar’s text is sandblasted onto the glass panes. Each new paragraph is laid out over the subsequent portrait. Each paragraph begins with a name or personal pronoun (Abraham, Abraham, Kenneth, I). The content of the text resonates with the imagery below it: the text about Grandpa Al who died an old man is over a picture of an elderly gentleman; the text about Grandpa Abe who died unexpectedly much earlier is over a picture of a middle-aged man; the texts about Kenneth and his boyhood are over images of young boys.
There are also formal connections between the sandblasted panes and the painted images. Three of the sandblasted lines of text line up exactly with the painted frames Aptekar has painted on the panels underneath. Also, the trompe l’oeil shadows Aptekar painted riff off the actual shadows cast by the text/letters onto the panels beneath, as well as with the actual shadow cast on the gallery wall by the whole piece. The wood panels are quite thick and have depth.
Benedek, Nelly Silagy. Examining Identity in Contemporary Art and Photography: A Resource for Educators. New York: The Jewish Museum, 2005.