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  • Source: The New York Times
  • Date: March 07, 2008

Art in Review

KON TRUBKOVICH: Almost Nowhere

Almost Nowhere, installation view courtesy of the artist and the gallery.

Kon Trubkovich was born in Russia in 1979 and lived there until he was 11, which may explain the fascination with incarceration that wends through his industrious but derivative New York gallery debut.

The show is a study in known forms of appropriation paintings based on blurry video pauses, drawings based on photographs or done-over magazine images. Its mood of alienation and threat occasionally erupts, as in seven graphite drawings based on images of an explosion.

The best pieces are two videos and a video reconstruction. “Ant Farm,” filmed in an abandoned prison near Philadelphia, shows men in orange prison garb carrying pieces of junk back and forth past large mural portraits of John F. Kennedy, James Brown, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other legends rendered in shades of gray. The contrast of colors, scales and degrees of importance is momentarily arresting.

Far grimmer, “No Exit,” a video reconstruction, focuses on the 1971 Attica uprising, a recurring theme here. It shows convicts being marched around an outdoor courtyard, naked except for shoes and socks. And “A Thriller Is a Thriller Is a Thriller” opts for entertainment. Part of a triptych that includes a still from “No Exit” and a collage, the video, widely known from YouTube, is an accomplished restaging of Michael Jackson’s mega-hit “Thriller” by inmates in a Philippine prison. Watching the men mimicking Mr. Jackson’s famous moves to his famous music is as good as this show gets.

The news release suggests that the works on view are metaphors about being an artist: the studio as a prison, art making as mindless labor. That makes sense. While he has evident skill and a complex subject, Mr. Trubkovich has not yet escaped the confines of familiar conventions.