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Alexander Kanevsky

City Hall Art Exhibition

Come, Alexander, and challenge us...

"Paintings by Alexander Kanevsky"
New Haven City Hall,
165 Church St., New Haven

Bold, brutal canvases propelled by the burden of history
By Judy Birke

New Heaven Register. February 4, 2001

Kanevsky's powerful images, a bizarre fusion of historic drama and hallucinatory distortion, take one into the realm of the subconscious, an instinctive place where semi-realistic visions of tormented figures writhe in convulsive agony amid a nightmarish otherworld.
Kanevsky, a Connecticut resident who emigrated from Russia in 1990, blends the expressive emotionalism and brusque strokes of Expressionism with the grotesque visionary style of the Surrealists.

Raw, passionate, angry and obsessive, these larger-than-life images reek of an intensely personal inner anguish that seems to have been propelled by the burden of human history.
Several provocative motifs recur, both sacred and profane.
The whirlwind of symbolic content primarily references to creation and renewal, death and destruction becomes the stuff of these disturbing narratives.
Pushed, pulled, exploited, exposed, bloodied, battered, distorted and contorted, the panoply of pained faces, anthropomorphic bodies and anguished souls exists in a state of unabated anxiety.

The intensity of the action and the multitude of the themes contribute to a heightened sense of psychological dislocation and emotional unrest. Add to that the dense physicality of the paint and you've got yourself a turbulent, visceral drama.

Although the imagery seems to refer to specific events, the action within each tableau remains enigmatic with no clearly defined narrative. Frenzied bursts of activity explode all over the place; the opportunity for any kind of communication among the elusive hordes of struggling humanity is totally lost.

Are these the faces of history, the tortured, the tormented, the lost, the damned, weighed down and haunted by the nightmares of the past? Are they caught in a modern world with little hope for a better future? Kanevsky's paintings raise many questions not easily answered.

In fact, the exhibition itself has raised many questions, with some City Hall workers offended by the canvases. The irony, of course, is that this show is intended as consolation for a bureaucratic blunder last summer that resulted in Kanevsky's work being removed from a Westville gallery window.

Some people find the work disturbing. Some say it's not art. Some say it should be removed from City Hall. Yes, it's disturbing. It's complex. It's graphic. It's unnerving. It's bold. It's brutal. It's anything but pretty. It's anything but easy. But it's also anything but trivial.

Is it art?

The definitions of art are infinite in number, spanning the spectrum of humanity. But if a painting is well-conceived and well-executed, as these works are, and if it affects the viewer in a strong and urgent manner, as these works obviously do, it seems it would, indeed, fit most definitions of the word.

Should it be removed?

Of course not.

Kanevsky's art has already been suppressed twice: once in the Soviet Union prior to his emigration, and once in New Haven.

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