Flatland XIV, 2013, paper burnt with propane torch, 76 x 52 inches (193 x 132 cm). Image courtesy of the artist.
A Vacation on Mars With God is a curious title for an exhibition. It implies that God exists, and that he is, at various times, able to lean back and put his feet up. One would assume that this occurs after the creation of another world that will, say in approximately 6,000 years, sing God's praises in endless ways. With Michael Zansky's art here at Stefan Stux Gallery, one is more inclined to see A Vacation on Mars With God as being a trip through the "nut house" where history, science, faith, culture and psychoanalysis collide, and somehow coalesce into a delicate dance that teeters on the very extinction of everything that we love and deem holy. Yes, this is a lot to take in -- any show of Zansky's art that features four of his many trains of thought would be. And yet, beneath all this -- all of the theatrics, narratives and mayhem -- there lies layer upon layer of undercurrents: cohesive, carefully thought out theory and critical thinking, driven by some of the most impressive technical prowess you will likely find in New York.
Flatland IV, 2013, paper burnt with propane torch, 76 x 52 inches (193 x 132 cm).
.Image courtesy of the artist
The burn drawings, which are collectively titled The Flatland Series, are the most abundant expression in the exhibition. Here, Zansky handles paper and fire with seamless expertise. Overall, there is a narrative that runs through tension, anguish, beauty and defeat like a meteor through space. It's all twisted together, bound for some inevitable end. It's often that way with Zansky's works -- a hopelessness that we reject, and a realization that the world will continue without us when we are gone, as if we never even existed.
Full Stop 2, 2009-2010, oil on canvas, 28 x 36 inches (71 x 91 cm). Image courtesy of the artist.
With the paintings, there lies Zansky's interest in the classics, and how some of human kind's most profound cultural breakthroughs become haunting reminders that time, as we view and understand it, is as relatively insignificant, as it is relentlessly unforgiving. Yet, there is comedy here -- we can look at the unavoidability of our own mortality and smile, even laugh. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, even though it is our fiery end, and we can ponder its irony as a constant force in life and death.
Giants and Dwarfs III, 1990-2013, oil, epoxy and glass on carved and burnt plywood on two panels, 96 x 144 inches (244 x 366 cm). Image courtesy of the artist.
Zansky's mixed media carvings Giants and Dwarfs, which are wood-burned, chain-sawed and chiseled, are the core of his life's work. They signify his artistic ability in its true scale, erasing any doubt of his genius. They are, in toto, a great monumental achievement.
Flatland VII, 2013, paper burnt with propane torch, 40 x 27 inches (102 x 69 cm). Image courtesy of the artist.
With all of his work, Zansky reroutes anything that comes his way -- everything is analyzed, deciphered, deconstructed then reintroduced. Walking through the exhibition is a trip through a multiple dimensional menagerie where the forces of nature come and go, and the reality of our temporary existence emerges. We are, after all, just momentary minutia in the grand scheme. There are billions, upon billions, upon billions of possibilities throughout the universe where intelligent thought resides, and it is what we leave behind that matters most. Zansky's art is a significant and influential read on our days, and it will remain as such for many years to come.
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