Stella Art Foundation

Lev Khesin

17 Jul - 17 Aug 2008

© Lev Khesin
Installation view
"Meta Tags"

Stella Art Foundation in Skaryatinsky pereulok

July 17 – August 17, 2008

Despite numerous declarations about the revival of painting, it is still in crisis. And the reason for this crisis is the same as for the phenomenon of conceptualization of the new art practice as a whole. It is believed that the reason for it is in the lack of direct contact between the contemporary man and reality, in the mediation of his relationship with the world by a whole set of technological gadgets, materials and procedures. They kill any life, so why discussing just painting? Yet, there is a need for it, moreover, there are real precedents of its presence in art practice.
Lev Khesin’s creative work is such a precedent. One can say that his painting is abstract, that its samples do not depict anything, do not “denote” any external phenomena. It is impossible to say for sure if his works are paintings or objects though. They have a base and a layer of paint like other paintings. But the size of this layer of paint exceeds every norm of painting, and it incorporates additional substances, besides that, which is usually characteristic of a sculpture or an object. Moreover, Khesin’s work lacks strict geometrical borderlines of the traditional canvas decorated with a frame. There are no borders to decorate here for his paintings are simultaneously objects, and objects (just as other things) do not need to either depict and name anything outside their own self, or be demonstratively extracted out of their environment.
Khesin’s works resemble lumps of colored substance. Physically it is semitransparent silicone combined with certain of pigments. But visually it is something quite different. This fusion produces a substance where color acquires sophisticated depth resembling that of a precious stone. And this association has nothing to do with jewelry, for it is natural, or alchemical, if you like, as purely artistic manipulations eliminate the distinction between the physical mode and the mode of aesthetic imagery. Transmutation makes routinely technological substances overvalued, they begin to function as natural artifacts, some ancient relics for which many great painters of the past had a real fancy. The names of individual “relics” (and unique precious stones always had their own names) are borrowed by the author from old English, a half-forgotten language, so that nothing but their acoustics were readable hiding (but not destroying) their concrete messages. The name for the project as a whole is selected in the same contrasting way: “meta tags” is a term used in contemporary web design, also designating some hidden information.
There is a saying: “stupid like a painter” which is a fragment of the myth about the fools of geniuses, great painters of the past. But today a great artist cannot afford the luxury of being a fool. And Khesin’s practice of generating artifacts that convince senses is a cunning intellectual project based on the conjunction of quite different things which are equally distant from each other, such as old and new, natural and artificial, conceptual calculation and sensuous material, avoidance of nomination and accurate designation. And it elegantly skips the boring for the viewer routine craftsmanship, this eternal compensation for the real aesthetical result, for the effect of wonder.

Vladimir Levashov

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