THE Magazine

September 18, 2010

THE Magazine: JUNE 2008, Critical Reflections
by Anthony Hassett

While thumbing through a recent edition of Art#!*&% magazine I found myself becoming increasingly agitated. There seems to be a widespread timorousness in the art world these days, a need to express aggrandized ambitions, trivial confusions and gutless mysteries. Granted, the gouging careerism that powers the considerations of many artists (and the mandarins who support them) can lead to the production of something interesting. For the most part, however, what we find ourselves left with is a tremendous amount of skill undermined by impoverished imaginations. I am not bewailing the breakdown of some past artistic authority. My problem is in the fact that eternal sameness presents itself as the eternally new. In the recognition of that fact there is most certainly a way out.

From time to time one comes across an artist who refuses to be institutionalized by the assumptions of his or her mentors, by the transcendental nonsense of the art market, nor by the very weird over-therapized psychology of practicing artists themselves. In the contemporary art world, work featuring (or even originating from) the darkness and desperation of current “American” realities is about as popular as toenail parings. But imagine if, during one of your happy art-walks, you came across something with the power of Goya’s fitful creative explorations of violence, something that craved and succeeded in capturing the denied and willfully resisted underpinnings of your own prosperity. Such is the power in the work of Wurlitzer recipient Yulia Pinkusevich, now showing at the Loka Art Space in Taos New Mexico. In this series of charcoal and beeswax images on paper, the artist imagines the full force of institutional domination, both mental and physical, right at the point where it meets the oblique acquiescence of the outside world. Fear has never been absent from the human experience, and city building has always contended with the need for protection from danger. But this can be turned upside down to give us a glimpse of the dangers lurking in our midst, not only in urban institutional design, but also in the power structures that work as a lens for perceiving the world. In these works, we seem to be looking through and into a picturesque labyrinth, immersed ever deeper in claustrophobic ideas of captivity, incarceration, isolation, and a degenerative moral force masquerading as restoration, or some such utilitarian philosophy. Even so, the paradoxical substance of this work is that, on closer inspection, we realize each dark corridor possesses a door, or a structural alternative -a way out of what otherwise feels like confusion and despair.

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