messing with traditional figure/ground relationships and by superimposing onto them, painterly artifacts that mimic the sorts of digital detritus that appears on TV sets when the cable signal runs amok. Granted, this an all-too-common mannerism among digital painters, a group to which Kanevsky definitely does not belong. But, as we learn from Unstable Equilibrium, the Philadelphia artist’s sixth show at the gallery, past and present are easily entangled, and that is all to the good because it renders fresh important parts of history that are fast being paved over in the rush to digital oblivion.
Another effective device, which I’ll call mock-montage for lack of a better term, involves Kanevsky’s insertion of slender horizontal lines into paintings that create the illusion of a narrative. Few such structures exist in the works themselves. But by fostering the illusion that they do, the artist gets you to see things you might otherwise easily miss. For example, hovering inside one “panel” of Conversation is the diaphanous visage of a woman whispering into her sleeping lover’s ear. That it depicts is a “visitation” dream is all but obscured by the sheer amount of plastic activity going on. Much of it involves an adaptation of Soutine’s technique of liquefying things, of making landscapes look like melted wax. Kanevsky, in this and several other paintings, does something similar, but in a brighter, sweeter palette, liquefying and flowing together floorboards, bed sheets, clothing, bodies and background as if they were reflections in water.
Water, in fact, may be Kanevsky’s biggest triumph in this show, the one instance where he actually does create a true multi-part montage. It comes in the form of a seascape built of individually painted segments of Mylar affixed to a six-foot-long panel. Whether they’re made from photos or painted individually on-site, I can’t say. What I do know is that this one, Waves, captures the sensory assault of the ocean better than any work I’ve seen in memory, save the Turners displayed earlier this year at the de Young. Here, Kanevsky tears a page from Richter, laying down multiple layers of semi-translucent paint, scraped horizontally.