Lucid Culture


Art Review: Shimon Okshteyn at the Stefan Stux Gallery, NYC

Okshteyn never fails to provoke, and in a less obvious way than you might think, in this narcotic-and-guilty-pleasure themed exhibit open through December 6. You should see it: everybody else will, and they’ll be talking about it. This is the one with the cocaine. In order to get to the cocaine, you have to make your way past the masturbating man. It’s not a pretty sight, an all-white, remarkably true-to-life, life-size sculpture of a potbellied middleaged man pleasuring himself. There’s absolutely nothing sensual about it: the look on his face is grotesque, even diabolical. It’s what Dick Cheney might look like if he found himself without a pretty boy to penetrate him.


The cocaine is inside to the right. It’s a remarkably 3-D image imposed on a mirrored surface, the perfect medium for whatever else could be chopped up and plopped onto it. It’s also hardly an incitement to do drugs. Cut to scale (pun intended), the lines aren’t that big, not much longer than the razor (stamped “U.S.A.”) used to cut them, the mirror where they’re laid out smudged by amateurs who couldn’t wait to get their greasy fingers on it for a cheap freeze. There’s maybe a gram, probably less, to the left of the razor. It’s paradigmatic for the rest of the show.


Is this Bret Easton Ellis art, a shallow, celebrity-addled celebration of decadence? Hardly. In a literary sense, it’s more like J. G. Ballard, as in Crash, finding all the twistedness and none of the fun in all the most likely places. The common theme is mirrored: there’s always somewhere to see yourself in these works. Okshteyn places every image here on a mirrored surface. The ashtray looks like it hasn’t been washed in ages, and you can see yourself if you look closely. The heroin is in a mirrored spoon, the works scattered around it. And everything looks disgustingly dirty.


Arguably the most striking of all the works here is a multimedia installation featuring the same torso sculpture as the naked masturbator in the front room, this time with the head of a pig turned sharply to the left as if to deliberately avoid the wallsize image of the roast meat directly in front of him.


The funniest image here is stuck way in the back. It’s a basket of cream puffs, black and white on the canvas, their filling oozing onto the floor via painted blown glass taking on stalagmite shapes as it pools where it lands. It’s welcome comic relief by contrast with the twisted theme of the rest of the show. Obviously, this is museum material: one can only wonder who would want to greet his or her guests with the masturbating man who greets the guests at this show. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome for the one thousandth time to the 21st century. The Stefan Stux Gallery is at 530 W 25th St., ground floor, in the middle of the block, with probably a lot of people there. Through December 6. 

October 25, 2008 - Posted by | Art, Reviews

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