Oil and watercolor on canvas
40.6 x 30.5 (cm)
16.0 x 12.0 (inch)Born in Moscow in 1982, Sanya Kantarovsky is an artist whose diverse practices encompass two-dimensional works, video works, literature and curatorial projects. He graduated from Rhode Island School of Design in 2003 and UCLA, Los Angeles in 2011 respectively and currently lives and works in New York. Kantarovsky's emotive and figurative works display a high visual literacy. They are hybrids of Kafka’s dark humor and the rich visual vocabulary of Modernism, Expressionism, Symbolism, painted in a style reminiscent of Paul Gauguin and Picasso’s Blue Period while drawing references to mid-century Soviet graphic art, including Danish cartoonist Herluf Bidstrup and Russian wunderkind Nadya Rusheva.
Spending his childhood in USSR, abridged classic adventure novels was Kantarovsky's major entertainment source and he used to doodle other scenes around the very few black and white Daumier-style printed illustrations in the books to fill up the narrative gaps. The comical device of 'closure', which refers to the cognitive steps that a reader takes intuitively to complete a narrative implied by a sequence of images, is significant in explaining the ambiguous narrativity presented in his works. In the past decade, Kantarovsky has filled his canvases with emotive figures in fragmented narration to explore the direct empathy viewers shared with the painted human subjects. Colored in muted palettes of blue, green and brown, Kantarovskian characters are often elongated figures of bohemians, like dandies, flâneurs, hobos, artists, writers, engaged in solitary cultural activities or involved in awkward social interactions. His works are imbued with a sense of melancholy and a mix of intense emotions including frustration, shame, lust, resentment, despair. Emotional and narrative ambiguity are interdependent in Kantarovsky’s world. It can be observed in “Cluster A (Gerbera)” (2019), for example, the man’s facial expression provokes viewers’ imagination with a wonder if he’s in his happy state or in sorrow while holding a Gerbera flower, which has symbolic meanings that are ‘happiness’, ‘relief from sorrow’, and ‘deception’. This half legible emotive figure marks Kantarovsky’s attempts to challenge the capacity of humor to prompt a double-take in the viewer's mind and reveal how meanings are made independently outside of the works.
Kantarovsky recently presented solo exhibitions at Kunsthalle Basel (2018) and the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin (2017-2018). Recent group exhibitions include Baltic Triennial 13 “GIVE UP THE GHOST” (2018); “The Arcades: Contemporary Art and Walter Benjamin” at the Jewish Museum, New York (2017); “The Eccentrics”, at the Sculpture Center, New York (2016). Other important presentations include “What Were You Expecting, Mr. Milquetoast, a Plot?” at Badischer Kunstverein in Karlsruhe (2014); “You are Not an Evening” at Gesellschaft für Aktuelle Kunst in Bremen (2013). Kantarovsky’s works are included in many public collections, including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and Tate Modern, London.