A Series of Not-So Classical Nudes by Phil Rabovsky
July 18 – July 22, 2018
Opening Wednesday, July 18th, 6 – 8 PM
VAN DER PLAS GALLERY
Open Wednesday – Sunday: 12-6
Van Der Plas Gallery is pleased to announce the opening of Venticento, a show of classically-inspired nudes on canvas, wall and paper by Russian-American artist Phil Rabovsky. Taking its name from the quattrocento, or Italian High Renaissance, Venticento is a twenty-first century look at the humanist tradition, bringing out ways this tradition has idealized, standardized, and appropriated the female body as a cultural symbol. Parallel to this critique, the show also sees in humanism the remains of something valuable—a faith in our own agency and ability to access truth that is missing from the politically-disoriented postmodern world. Politics, humanism reminds us, is not just about resisting power. It must also build polities. In light of recent events, Venticento asks if it is possible to reclaim a positive image of our own power, and believe in civilization once again.
The show centers on four large nudes conceptualized in collaboration between the artist and each model. Untitled David, the show’s first canvas, depicts the biblical story of David and Goliath. Recast as a contemporary woman of color, the work challenges European appropriation of the biblical hero, reclaiming David for all those who struggle against long odds for a more democratic world.
In Venus in Ferns, another self-possessed young woman is cast as the Hellenistic Venus de Milo. The unsettling absence of the Venus’ arms is given macabre expression in a cartoonish spurt of blood, while her contemporary domestic environment extends off the canvas and onto the wall itself. Nearby, a series of lithographs reproduce the Venus, underscoring the relationship between her status as an icon, her armlessness, and the reproduction of images through technology. Technological reproduction, the works suggest, is the great differentiator between the quattrocento and today—a condition that has changed dramatically since the Renaissance.
The theme of technological reproduction finds its most dramatic expression in Apollo Room, an installation around two identical nudes inspired by the stern, pre-classical Apollo at Olympia. The two nudes stand in apposition, neither joined nor in conflict. Between them, a Persian rug and pair of ottomans ambiguously remind us of times past while inviting us to sit and contemplate the body—or two bodies—that these canvases represent. Created by a complex “circuit” of hand, eye, and computer, the painted figures lack personal identities but retain Apollo’s civilizing gaze—a gaze evocative of humanism’s project to cultivate the human. That project’s legacy, the show suggests, is a complicated one, worth remembering for its civic virtues as much as its social inequities.
Born in Moscow in 1987, Phil Rabovsky received his B.A. in art, philosophy, and linguistics from Columbia University and is currently pursuing his MFA in Art Practice at the School of Visual Art (SVA). He is a member of Shoestring Press in Brooklyn, where he teaches classical painting techniques and has organized numerous artist-led initiatives. Rabovsky has shown at Shoestring Press, the Greenpoint Gallery, and Friday Studio Gallery in Brooklyn, as well as SVA’s Chelsea and Flatiron Galleries in Manhattan. His work has been written up in Brooklyn Magazine and featured in Word: An Anthology, published by A Gathering of the Tribes. He can be contacted through his website at www.philrabovsky.com, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or instagram at @phil.rabovsky.