Too Late: The European Can(n)on Is Here

Opening 7PM March 24, 2017 at Shoestring Press

Also opening March 24: “Map and Territory” at Shoestring Studio

Phil Rabovsky,  Venus in Ferns (detail of left panel),  2016

Phil Rabovsky, Venus in Ferns (detail of left panel), 2016

It's too late to be grateful

It's too late to be late again

It's too late to be hateful

The European cannon is here

—David Bowie, “Station to Station,” 1976

In their second collaborative exhibition, Phil Rabovsky and Lane Sell present three large-scale pieces that continue their parallel investigations of representation and inheritance with new work in Too Late: The European Can(n)on Is Here. While distinct in process and style, both of their current work hinges on transmission—the linguistic systems, desires, movement and genetic material that shape human lives and the representation of human forms.

In Trans-Atlantic, Sell’s bodyprint-based silkscreen prints swim in the tide of human migration and descent. Taking the form of a 20-foot-long horizontal scroll of cloth bounded by the coasts of Africa and the Americas, Trans-Atlantic pictures generations of migration as a flow of bodies, inherited talismans, wealth, enslavement, and genetic material. The piece invites visitors to register in a ledger, Ellis Island-style, and to join the chain of inheritance by choosing among talismans to carry with them into the world—the seeds of an invasive water plant called “devil’s heads,” metal bells, pepper sauce, and livestock ear tags. Taking the artist’s own family history as a jumping off point, Trans-Atlantic illustrates a history of migration beyond the dynamic of oppressor and oppressed. Simple relationships of dominance give way to complex webs of inheritance and descent, as humans are driven by basic desires interwoven with higher hopes.

Phil Rabovsky’s recent paintings understand inheritance as a language of visual tropes, signs and clichés  that attach themselves to human bodies—a conformity we can accept or rebel against, but must engage with either way. His paintings How I Thought Audrine Wanted Me to Paint Her Before I Realized She Attached Different Meanings to Her Words (After Manet) and Venus in Ferns disassemble masterworks from the Western Canon, laying bare the codes that flatten female human beings into two-dimensional forms for visual consumption. In Venus in Ferns, a serene, self-possessed young woman is maimed into the form of a living Venus de Milo, caged in bold brushstrokes representing drapery, and cloistered into her panel of the diptych. The multi-dimensional person—for Rabovsky, the body proper—struggles against the constraints of this two-dimensional language passed down from paintings, movies and magazines, in an ancient tension born of the deep gulf between inherited ideals and individual experiences.

Lane Sell,  Trans-Atlantic (Detail),  2017

Lane Sell, Trans-Atlantic (Detail), 2017

About the artists


Phil Rabovsky (b. 1987, Moscow, Russia) is a painter with roots in cultural theory and linguistics. Born in the frigid capital of a crumbling empire, Rabovsky moved to Upstate New York with his family at the age of four. He grew up moving between small towns in the Western Finger Lakes before coming to New York City to study art. After graduating from Columbia University in 2009 with a degree in Art and Philosophy, he took a brief hiatus in Budapest before resettling to Brooklyn. He is currently pursuing his MFA in Art Practice at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, where he is receiving a sound semiotic thrashing, and keeping one eye on the old master tradition while expanding into video, readymade sculpture, participatory works, theory and criticism. Seeing grammar everywhere he goes, Phil's work explores the intersection between language, bodies, art, and power.

Lane Sell (b. 1984, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands) is founder, owner and master printer of Shoestring Press. He is a graduate of Columbia University, where he studied Classics and Visual Art. He has instructed at Columbia and New Jersey City University, and for the past five years has run Shoestring Press in Brooklyn, working with artists and members as well as instructing classes in a variety of print mediums. In 2013 and 2014, his silkscreen work won grants from Brooklyn Arts Council.