From February 19th Marina Gisich Gallery is presenting the new painting series “Waiting” by Vitaly Pushnitsky.
The ghost of high style haunts Russian contemporary art. As of late, there has been an intense desire to speak with the impressiveness, confidence, and richness of the old masters. But it doesn’t work. The “reasonable, good, and eternal” has been appropriated, instrumentalized, and serves the populist needs of the state, while the artist figure, speaking unequivocally of the intransient, is repressed by the conceptualist discourse and can’t yet be rehabilitated. However, Vitaly Pushnitsky manages to remain provocatively serious over the years without becoming an object of ridicule. With overt attention to the political, social, historical, and mass-media reality, the artist has entrenched himself in the territory of ontology. Admittedly, this hasn’t lent more confidence or impressiveness.
The works in this exhibition are thematically diverse. Formally, this is an extension of the previously exhibited series Points, No Man’s Land, Exit, and Expectation. The source material is the most basic kind, readily accessible and biographical. Here we have a photo from the family archives; a scene from some program once watched; the interiors of the bankrupt organization called Signal, where the acclaimed exhibition of the same name took place; over here a dumpster for construction debris (the artist is remodeling); shop window displays, amusement rides, sculpture and still life seen in his travels; and there is his studio. However, the randomness of the notes and photos with their spontaneous selection and the flickering re-sorting of recent impressions, once mired in the thickness of painting, takes on a strange solemnity.
The surface of Pushnitsky’s canvases is always a story of confrontation. Depictive and narrative efforts face off against autoaggressive gestures: washing out, sanding down, stripping, gluing together, painting over. The color is covered with a thick monochrome layer. The three-dimensional illusory space is canceled out by alien, flat, colorful clutter. Utterances are broken off, incomplete, shouting over each other. Two contradictory feelings – the need to speak in utmost seriousness, and disappointment in the opportunity for such speech – form the materiality of the painting, layer by layer.
Vitaly’s recent works have accumulated a collective sense of the protracted ending of a historical era and the heavy foreboding associated with this moment. The epoch is still twinkling with inertia, like a carousel forgotten in the night, though its days are already numbered. However, a tedious, agenda-based, nervously twitching expectation goes against Pushnitsky’s ethics.
In order not to stray from the stateliness of his mournful ecclesiastical path, the artist dissolves personal time in grand historical time. The sense of the unprecedented nature of the current moment vanishes, along with the despair. Vitaly isn’t talking about aspirations, hopes, fears, or predictions. His expectation is completely different. As a remedy for the overall (legitimate) apathy and anxiety, Vitaly offers a non-emotional awareness of the inevitability of the end. A skeleton on a bench near a dried-up pond, a skull on a fragment of a baroque crucifix, and a skull forgotten on a desktop all point to the outcome and limit of all expectations. Contemplating the final stroke modulates immunity to agitation in the news feed. This is the only thing worth doing, courageously and deliberately, right up until the unavoidable outcome awaiting each of us. Vitaly uses the purifying work of death to counter the neurotic checking of the time and the agonizing toss up between a receding era and a clearly comfortless tomorrow. Death takes each moment that came before it and defamiliarizes it, monumentalizes it, fills it with grandeur and meaning, giving it epic proportions. The artist’s resource for seriousness arises not from an itching desire to tell the future and adapt to its demands, but from firmly establishing the inevitability of the end. This is what allows Pushnitsky to discuss big – even extremely big – ideas.
text: Alexander Dashevsky