Robert Kushner: Silk Road
January 8 – February 7, 2009
DC Moore is pleased to present the exhibition Robert Kushner: Silk Road, showcasing the artist’s most recent paintings of boldly colored, exuberant flowers on grid-like grounds.
The silk road was a series of ancient trade routes across Asia which served as a conduit for the transmission of ideas and goods between the East and Europe. It was also a vehicle for thought, trade and new artistic expression. This recent body of work continues Kushner's examination of such syntheses as he explores an expanded palette of evocative color while introducing designs from the tribal embroideries of Uzbekistan, which is located at the heart of the Silk Road. Kushner’s interest in the Uzbek suzani stems from his work as a textile conservator in the 1970s. This exhibition confirms Donald Kuspit’s assessment in Artforum that “Kushner’s art goes against the prevailing trend toward the anti- or nonaesthetic, which takes revenge on life. He chooses instead to affirm the wonder of existence.”
Paintings such as Many Anemones, Two Red Parrots, and Flaming Purissima combine pattern, surface texture, and surprising color juxtapositions to breathtaking effect. The combination of riotous floral elements with the structure of the grid results in work that is simultaneously geometric and biomorphic, representational and abstract, organic and synthetic. The Uzbeck suzani, Kushner’s unique use of gold, silver, and patinated copper leaf, as well as mica, amplifies the dynamic, unapologetic opulence of his paintings. Seen together as an installation, the paintings in Silk Road encourage the viewer to search for related harmonies or discontinuity within the works as a whole.
In several works, including White Lotus Shaft of Light VI, Kushner introduces a vertical strip of gold that slices through more somber patches of blue, red, and black to spotlight delicately textured, pale blossoms. These works commemorate the late Lenore Tawney (1907-2007), a pioneering fiber artist and longtime friend of Kushner’s. Commenting on these works, he reveals “she was very much on my mind as I finished them. The inscribed circle is a direct reference to one of Tawney's iconic woven images. The deep colors and the band of light illuminating the single blossom in each painting are a tribute to her life and her graceful exit.”
A color catalogue accompanies the exhibition with an essay by Justin Spring. In 2006 Pomegranate published Michael Duncan’s 120-page monograph on Kushner’s recent work. His earlier work receives extensive treatment in Gardens of Earthly Delight, written by Alexandra Anderson-Spivy and Holland Cotter and published by Hudson Hills Press in 1997.