Critics’ Picks

Andrej Dubravsky, Guest List, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 78 3/4 x 98 1/2".

Andrej Dubravsky, Guest List, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 78 3/4 x 98 1/2".


Andrej Dubravsky

Jiri Svestka | Prague
Biskupsky dvur 6 2nd floor
September 14–November 3, 2012

Painter Andrej Dubravsky’s summer studio is situated within walking distance of a lake in his hometown of Bratislava, Slovakia. Each morning, he would swim out to a small island which he’d explore by foot before returning back, emerging from the water only to dive into the day’s work. The resulting paintings, marked with a fluidity in their thin acrylicized surfaces that could have been spat straight from the mouth of the summer solstice herself, debuted in a 5 AM sunrise exhibition on the island the first week of September, where invited guests could trudge through weed-lined paths to discover canvases deposited in the landscape along the way.

For those of us not fortunate enough to attend, the show has been re-created—albeit in white cube format—in Berlin just as the cold has begun to creep in and with it a prescient nostalgia for the dying season. The bunny boys found in these paintings, usually emerging from bodies of water, have become Dubravksy’s chief archetype; unashamedly reflecting the artist’s own youth, they revel in a celebration of innocent energy and the right to preserve one’s naïveté in the face of a global culture that increasingly trades on knowledge. Intriguingly, many of the paintings take stock Netspeak phrases as their titles—Subscribers, Sign Up Now, Advanced Search—even though their content has seemingly nothing to do with the Internet. Perhaps this is a trick for allowing us to view them through a lens we wouldn’t otherwise take on: the pornographic shopping mall of the virtual, where an even more attractive body can be visually consumed with each click of the mouse.

Of course, the bunny boy motif has its dark edge, as well; they “will be eaten probably,” Dubravsky himself wryly noted in a recent interview. Hints of such dismal fates surface in works such as the eerie My Best Friends from Last Summer, 2012, in which a stack of skulls emerges from a thin wash of graying paint, as well as in the generally dark palette found throughout. This is the place where the narcissism of youth—and especially this generation of youth—melts in the face of the artist’s chief tendency, which is that of expressionism; for what else is expression if not the sacrifice of the self at the altar of the ideal?