Also opening March 24: “Map and Territory” at Shoestring Studio
It's too late to be grateful
It's too late to be late again
It's too late to be hateful
The European cannon is here
—David Bowie, “Station to Station,” 1976
Phil Rabovsky and Lane Sell present three large-scale pieces that continue their parallel investigations of representation and inheritance with new work in Too Late: The European Cannon Is Here.While distinct in process and style, both of their current work hinges on transmission—the linguistic systems, desires, movement and genetic material that shape human lives and the representation of human forms.
In Trans-Atlantic, Sell’s bodyprint-based silkscreen prints swim in the tide of human migration and descent. Taking the form of a 20-foot-long horizontal scroll of cloth bounded by the coasts of Africa and the Americas, Trans-Atlantic pictures generations of migration as a flow of bodies, inherited talismans, wealth, enslavement, and genetic material. The piece invites visitors to register in a ledger, Ellis Island-style, and to join the chain of inheritance by choosing among talismans to carry with them into the world—the seeds of an invasive water plant called “devil’s heads,” metal bells, pepper sauce, and livestock ear tags. Taking the artist’s own family history as a jumping off point, Trans-Atlantic illustrates a history of migration beyond the dynamic of oppressor and oppressed. Simple relationships of dominance give way to complex webs of inheritance and descent, as humans are driven by basic desires interwoven with higher hopes.
Phil Rabovsky’s recent paintings understand inheritance as a language of visual tropes, signs and clichés that attach themselves to human bodies—a conformity we can accept or rebel against, but must engage with either way. His paintings How I Thought Audrine Wanted Me to Paint Her Before I Realized She Attached Different Meanings to Her Words (After Manet) and Venus in Ferns disassemble masterworks from the Western Canon, laying bare the codes that flatten female human beings into two-dimensional forms for visual consumption. In Venus in Ferns, a serene, self-possessed young woman is maimed into the form of a living Venus de Milo, caged in bold brushstrokes representing drapery, and cloistered into her panel of the diptych. The multi-dimensional person—for Rabovsky, the body proper—struggles against the constraints of this two-dimensional language passed down from paintings, movies and magazines, in an ancient tension born of the deep gulf between inherited ideals and individual experiences.