Exhibitions - A short play about watching shadows move across the room

Caroline Kent
A short play about watching shadows move across the room

12.06.23 – 12.29.24

Caroline Kent's large-scale mural at the Queens Museum. A variety of shapes resembling paper collage cutouts are layered on a black background. Most of the shapes are various shades of gray but a few feature pastel and bold colors.

Installation view: Caroline Kent, "A short play about watching shadows move across the room", 2023. Image by Hai Zhang.

A short play about watching shadows move across the room (2023) is a mural by Caroline Kent commissioned for the Queens Museum Large Wall. The mural consists of five layers of painted images and sculptures that begin with an all-black base. Painted over this foundation are figures that Kent calls “shadow shapes.” These large shapes vary across black tones lighter than the background yet retain the function of a shadow.


Interacting with these shadows, Kent layers colorful forms that overlap, intermingle, and butt up against each other. Hand-painted over these forms, the fourth layer incorporates “floor plans” — Kent’s own drawings that invent domestic spaces. The final layer consists of five 3D wooden sculptures in abstract shapes that hang from the wall. Together, the mural “moves through planes of space — from blackness, to shadow, to flat surface, to relief.” The Large Wall becomes a site for scenography where Kent renders the shapes as characters, props, and/or architectures themselves.


Caroline Kent is an abstract painter and text-based artist whose large-scale works blur notions of language, sculpture, and performance. Reminiscent of her connection to Eastern Europe, where she spent time in Romania as a Peace Corps volunteer, Kent’s pastel palette lends itself to improvisation and a reconsideration of the power and limits of language: what is told, heard, and what ultimately remains unspoken.


Kent’s work channels personal experience and her cultural background to widen a historically marginalizing discourse of abstraction, and she exploits emotional mark-making to manipulate the rhythms and tone of communication. Through an expanded form, Kent opens a realm of possibility for linguistic experimentation while leaving room for meaning that is silent, secret, and coded.


This project is organized by Lauren Haynes, Director of Curatorial Affairs and Programs, with Amari-Grey Johnson, Curatorial Assistant.


Access Resources


About the Artist

Caroline Kent is a Chicago-based visual artist. Kent speculates in both the potential and the limitations of language, and ultimately questions the modernist canon of abstraction. Caroline Kent earned a BS in Art at Illinois State University (1998) and an MFA at the University of Minnesota (2008). Kent has exhibited nationally at The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; The Flag Art Foundation, NY; The DePaul Art Museum, Chicago; The California African American Museum, LA; and Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Kent is a 2020 Artadia Chicago Awardee, and has received grants from The Pollock Krasner Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, and The Jerome Foundation. In 2018, she was a Fellow at Paint School, a New York-based program of Shandaken Projects. Kent is Assistant Professor of Art, Theory and Practice, at Northwestern University, IL. She is represented by Casey Kaplan Gallery in New York and Patron Gallery in Chicago.


Caroline Kent: A short play about watching shadows move across the room is made possible in part by lead support from the Ford Foundation. Additional support is provided by JoAnn Gonzalez Hickey & Syzygy-nyc.org, Blanchard-Nesbitt Family, Hill Art Foundation, Orange Barrel Media and Queens Museum Exhibitions Circle.


The Queens Museum is housed in the New York City Building, which is owned by the City of New York.

The Museum is supported, in part, by public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with Mayor Eric Adams, the Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, and the New York City Council under the leadership of Speaker Adrienne E. Adams.

Major funding is generously provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies, Ford Foundation, Hearst Foundations, Jerome Foundation, MacMillan Family Foundation, Mellon Foundation, E.A. Michelson Philanthropy, New York Community Trust, Lambent Foundation, and Rockefeller Brothers Fund.