Magazine article Artforum International

Sanya Kantarovsky

Magazine article Artforum International

Sanya Kantarovsky

Article excerpt

MARC FOXX

The paintings of Russian-born, LA-based artist Sanya Kantarovsky are almost irresistibly appealing, even adorable. Modestly scaled mergers of abstract and figurative--or, more to the point, painterly and illustrational--elements, they are executed with a confident ease, a lightness of touch that suggests not just rigor and control but a self-pleasuring frivolity, too. In these works, the paint is often thinly applied and, here and there, wiped or scraped away, leaving voids veiled with the barely there traces of facture, lines and layered color over which the artist has rendered a pictorial mise-en-scene. The sinewy figures that inhabit the schematic architecture of Kantarovsky's pictorial space are shown engaged in various creative pursuits. In their moody isolation, these characters conform to clich s of the suffering artist, with only the evacuated shapes of their arch stylization keeping them from being instantly legible.

For example, in Sinfonia #2 (all works cited, 2012), an orchestra conductor is depicted from the rear, caught in a moment of ecstatic musical transport, with arms outstretched and neck sharply bent, his head peering out from under one arm and his eyes wide open in shock as he suddenly registers an audience. In Events, a woman kneels doubled over on the floor, one hand over her head and the other clutching an empty page in front of her, lost to the world. One is tempted to read these characters as figures of fun and, to an extent, they are. On this point, Kantarovsky cites the work of the Danish political cartoonist Herluf Bidstrup, whose satirical swipes at modern art as the ultimate (and quintessentially bourgeois) expression of inwardness overcultivated to the point of absurdity are a crucial source of inspiration. For American viewers, a related sensibility might be found in back issues of the New Yorker, though that reference could by no means stand in as a direct equivalent--and it is precisely the bilious subtext of such geopolitically disparate allusions that clouds the outwardly easy good humor of these works. …

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