Lucid Culture


Tamara Kostianovsky – Actus Reus at the Black & White Gallery, NYC

The phrase “actus reus,” meaning the physical commission of a crime, in combination with “mens rea,” the mind to do it, equate to criminal liability in a court of law. For her New York solo debut, Israeli/Argentinian artist Tamara Kostianovsky has created a series of mostly lifesize sculptures of beef carcasses made from used clothing. The show has all the subtlety of a Mack truck hitting a brick wall at 100 MPH, but sometimes that’s what you need to do to prove a point: these works are impossible to turn away from. The colors are bloodless, the reds muted admidst the pink, beige and white of cowskin, fat and sinew, which makes them all the more powerful: the stuffed animal quality almost makes you want to cuddle these dead animals and reassure them that everything’s ok. Of course, it’s not.

The slaughterhouse includes a quartet of “beef” sides, each in plastic bags with their own individual tag (which looks suspiciously like a recycled airline baggage label); a sink full of “blood” (knitted or embroidered), “blood” seeping all around it; several carcasses, some on hooks, others not, shown from the the underside of the ribcage; and the most striking cow of all, who hangs from the ceiling by a single leg, the other limp, the skin of her belly peeled away to reveal an intricate network of veins. The realism is striking, as is Kostianovsky’s remarkable prowess as a seamstress. As agitprop goes, it doesn’t get much better than this (is Kostianovsky a vegetarian? One would think so). If all else fails, she can always become the house artist for PETA. But the equation isn’t that simple. Most of us eat meat. Only a tiny fraction of the carnivores of the Western world actually kill what they consume. In tackling this cognitive dissonance head-on, Kostianovsky takes on the difficult task of trying to give these animals some dignity in their ugliest possible state and succeeds brilliantly. Through May 24 at the Black & White Gallery, 636 West 28th St., west of 11th Ave., Tuesday – Saturday, 11 AM – 6 PM and by appointment.

April 18, 2008 Posted by | Art, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment