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ArtForum Critic's Picks

by Owen Duffy

Anton Ginzburg: Staring and Cursing
at Fridman Gallery / 287 Spring Street
November 14–December 21, 2017

A century ago, Russia’s October Revolution catapulted universalism from the worker’s table to the seat of state power, and the prospective elimination of class created fruitful opportunities for the avant-garde. Kazimir Malevich and his lesser known contemporaries, such as Mikhail Matyushin, sought to inaugurate a transcendental aesthetic language through abstraction and explore the limits of human perception—a project that underpins Anton Ginzburg’s current show.

In the center of the gallery, viewers encounter Sky Poles II, 2016, a duo of porcelain totems glazed in gradations of blue. Despite their earthly materiality, the columns seem to reach for the atmosphere and function as pylons granting entry to the immersive mural behind, Color-Space Initiative 2, 2017. Mint and cerulean rectangles become an abstract landscape layered with four panels of mirrored glass (COEV Compositions, 2016–, a separate series of works) to create a horizon line. Ginzburg studied and adapted the theories and methodologies of Matyushin, who hypothesized a mystical augmentation of human perception through artistic training. The result is a body of work that is deeply formal as well as phenomenological, beckoning viewers to perceive themselves in the here and now.

Ginzburg’s ORRA paintings, 2017, octagonal panels of geometric abstraction, utilize vibrant color combinations related to Matyushin’s extensive studies. They allude to something beyond, but their handmade tactility projects a sense of immanent presence. Stripes and squares of blue, peach, orange, and green, among other hues, conglomerate into a frontal cross composition. Colors push and pull, confusing figure and ground. Though Ginzburg’s exhibition laments the lost possibilities of a utopian abstraction, it proposes a hopeful future for painting, full of vitality and breath.

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