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Alex Kanevsky Liberation and Disorientation


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MODEL WITH APPLE AND THE PLANES, 2018, Oil on board, 24 ∞ 23 inches

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Alex Kanevsky’s paintings are alluring; they captivate and challenge the viewer. This is an intrinsic and intentional goal of this very gifted painter. He asserts that his works have no narratives, so that they are “provocations” and are meant to be seen as “visual poetry.” He incites his viewer to devise a personal interpretation of what is presented in his paintings. As the subtitle of the exhibition—Liberation and Disorientation—implies, Alex has the freedom to create imagery as he wishes which is not tied to the conventional, just as we have the liberty to decipher what we see as we wish. He observes the reality around him but uncovers hidden details unique to his vision. Not being bound to formulaic or predictable realities, the world created in Alex’s paintings can disorient initially, but quickly the viewer is transported. The multilayered, perplexing, and often mysterious compositions are magnetically engaging. Coupled with the complexity of the imagery are Alex’s remarkable aesthetic and technical abilities. The dynamism created by his gestural brushstokes and high-keyed palette is intoxicating and seductive. A heightened sense for color, the ability to capture light, and an idiosyncratic handling of space are all hallmarks of his work. We always anxiously await what is next to come from Alex’s studio, and this new group of paintings do not disappoint. They demonstrate his uncanny ability to present the human form, whether representational or fractured, and his landscapes and seascapes pulsate with alchemical energy, shifting between the recognizable world and that of pure form and color. Abstraction collides with objects and ambiguous architecture envelopes figures in this intriguing and wonderful world Alex draws us into—a world into which we go so willingly. Hollis Taggart is honored and delighted by our association with such an accomplished artist as Alex Kanevsky. He truly stands out in the contemporary art world as a painter who is skilled and thought-provoking. He is reverential and knowledgeable about the past yet never derivative. His consistency in challenging the boundaries of painting never ceases to amaze.


Artistic influences. There are not many surprises here. Velazquez. Always. But also Rembrandt, Degas, Albert York, Euan Uglow, Ann Gale, Edwige Fauvry, late Lucian Freud, and early Francis Bacon. Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Bach, Schnittke, Vasks. Filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki. I could just sit here and think of more and more names but that would dilute everything.

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LANDSCAPE WITH PEOPLE, 2019, Oil on board, 18 ∞ 18 inches

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WHITE MOUNTAINS, 2019, Oil on Mylar mounted on board, 18 ∞ 24 inches

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CONCORDIA, 2018–19, Oil on board, 36 ∞ 36 inches

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A NUDE AND AN AIRPLANE, 2019, oil on board, 18 ∞ 18 inches

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CHINESE CAKE, 2019, Oil on board, 18 ∞ 18 inches

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I have been painting a long time, and for a long while fearless color was an impossible dream. Color is a powerful emotional trigger— even though by itself it is an abstract thing—and a very personal one in its perception. All my life I have been attracted to the color events. Yet, I couldn’t create them to my satisfaction. Looking at some of the artists I mentioned somehow gave me courage to try with colors what Joseph Brodsky advised for poetry: “Connect the lines not with logic, but with movement of the soul, even if you are the only person who understands this movement. And then the poem will be dear to you. And liberate you from the other people’s opinions. You will not even wish for these opinions.”

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GIRL WITH A HORSE IN CERULLEDA, 2019, Oil on canvas, 66 ∞ 66 inches

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The Waves are simple paintings. It was exciting to be with my folding easel on a small stone shelf at the edge of a cliff in Ireland painting the stormy waves below. Their fast movement was an observational problem. It was daunting, until I saw their cyclical nature. They repeat themselves often enough, and this makes it possible to paint directly from observation. Of course, this is not an exact repetition. The situation is similar to an artist painting a strange portrait: each time the artist looks at the sitter, there is a different person. A human face to be sure, but not the same. The result is not a portrait of a single individual, but an accumulative, if somewhat ambiguous, image of humanity.

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MAY 17, QUIET, 2019, Oil on Mylar mounted on board, 14 ∞ 20 inches

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MAY 19, WINDY, 2019, Oil on Mylar mounted on board, 19 ∞ 25 inches

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10  SEASCAPE, 2019, Oil on board, 21 1/2 ∞ 49 inches

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For many artists painting people begins with a simple and honest admiration of the beauty of the human body. That is enough for a while. But if you paint people long enough, you become more interested in the aspects of their being other than beauty. Is there a soul inside of this beautiful envelope? This duality seems artificial; no separation between the two is evident. The body ages—everything that happens in life leaves a bewildering complexity of imprints on it. Movements of the soul are responsible for many of these changes. But then, some of the changes are involuntary and in turn they impact the condition of the soul. Or not. It is deeply mysterious. As a painter, I don’t feel that it is my job to solve these mysteries. I am there to look with empathy and wonder. And then, whenever some sort of clarity results from this looking, attempt to express it by placing pigments on a flat surface. The simplicity and directness of means leave room for poetry and compassion.

11  TASTE OF APPLE, 2019, Oil on board, 18 ∞ 18 inches

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12  C.B. WITH DARKNESS, 2019, Oil on board, 18 ∞ 18 inches

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13  SAMURAI KIMONO, 2019, Oil on board, 18 ∞ 18 inches

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The peony is not dead yet. It doesn’t know that the death has begun. It draws the water from the glass and tries to do the only thing it knows: to be attractive and opulent. To do that it has to consume itself since the roots are no longer attached. The peony is eating itself. Painting takes time, and I am looking at it and unwittingly record the changes. But I am not really there to witness its demise. I am interested in variations that begin with the subject, and gradually become based on each other in succession. These two independent struggles, mine and the peony’s go on parallel courses, and the Peony Variations are what happens somewhere in between.

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14  PEONY VARIATIONS 1, 2019, Oil on board, 18 ∞ 18 inches 15  PEONY VARIATIONS 2, 2019, Oil on board, 18 ∞ 18 inches 16  PEONY VARIATIONS 3, 2019, Oil on board, 18 ∞ 18 inches 17  PEONY VARIATIONS 4, 2019, Oil on board, 18 ∞ 18 inches

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18  ROAD WITH HEADLIGHTS, 2019, Oil on canvas, 42 ∞ 60 inches

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19  IRELAND FROM THE SEA, 2018, Oil on Mylar mounted on board, 11 1/8 ∞ 20 inches

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20  NURSES WITH WINE, 2019, Oil on board, 36 ∞ 36 inches

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21  MIDORI IN THE MOUNTAINS, 2019, Oil on board, 14 ∞ 40 inches

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22  FRISIANS, 2018, Oil on Mylar mounted on board, 19 5/8 ∞ 14 1/8 inches

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It took me a while to realize that “simple” paintings could be a way to escape narrative clichés, ideological obsessions, and anything else that thinking people like to bring along when they look at art. People believe there is a subject, and a painting is something that is about the subject. I am not terribly fond of this view. I find painting difficult and endlessly fascinating in itself. Giorgio Morandi was not driven by the love of bottles. Dmitri Shostakovich’s music is not about Stalin. William Carlos Williams was not consumed with red wheelbarrows and cyclamens.

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23  PROVOCATION, 2019, Oil on board, 18 ∞ 18 inches

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What you see are not really narratives. They only masquerade as such. They are in fact provocations. These paintings are different attempts to do what the “simple� paintings do. They resist the riddle solvers. Being manifestly absurd, they confound outside interpretations and instead provoke viewer-supplied narratives. Realizing this, some loose interest and leave. That’s my loss. But the others remain curious and begin looking at the painting as visual poetry rather than a tale. I am painting for them.

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24  CLASSIC NUDE, 2019, Oil on canvas, 66 ∞ 72 inches

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This catalogue has been published on the occasion of the exhibition “Alex Kanevsky: Liberation and Disorientation” organized by Hollis Taggart, New York, and presented from September 5–28, 2019. All Artwork © 2019 Alex Kanevsky ISBN: 978-0-9985000-8-9 Publication Copyright © 2019 Hollis Taggart All rights reserved. Reproduction of contents prohibited. Hollis Taggart 521 West 26th Street 1st Floor New York, NY 10001 Tel 212 628 4000 Fax 212 570 5786 Catalogue production: Kara Spellman Design: McCall Associates, New York Printing: Meridian Printing, Rhode Island Photography: Joshua Nefsky, New York

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Profile for Hollis Taggart

Alex Kanevsky: Liberation and Disorientation