Andy Petrusevics Visual Artist

project - 3 - dissonant nation - andrew

Review: Ken Bolton

Andy Petrusevics

Dissonant Nation

SouthWest contemporary

Project 3 2019





Dissonant Nation at Southwest contemporary was an installation that simulated perhaps a crowd scene, the 'crowd' made up of two-dimensional characters (representations of actual human figures, but also humanoid memes or expressions or attitudes), a sort of shallowly three-dimensional frieze, then. The vocabulary—or cast—were familiar in their style: Petrusevics' long perfected distillation of cartoon advertising styles, suggestive of much of the twentieth century, say 1920s to more or less now, but always ('always'?) with a deliberate dated, failedness, tiredness, attaching to them. Loveable hucksters and failures and crooks. Advertising, but not Big Time advertising. A little Pop, a little Bauhaus, a little Tin Pan Alley (or Weimar) desperation. Grosz and Dix, the Jetsons and Hanabarbera. These were modes quoted as much as used.


Andy's show looked very good: it conveyed the spirit and visual style of his work—and the style itself still works, to be pleasing, but also to seem reductive and cynical and yet realistic, and it lifts the viewer into that same realm of slightly black mirth. Dissonant Nation was an exhibition for the lost federal election. The long landscape painting behind it, anchoring it, seemed so much more humane than the characters, and slightly tragic and betrayed. The black graphic line seemed to sigh at the pointlessness of representation—it was much looser than his outlines often are, sort of fitful as a describing or bounding line, almost a net thrown over the colour that it 'controlled'. As a playful, 'abstract' line it functioned cheerfully enough. The sculptural pieces were nearly all personas—and shifty, undependable—or else they were fall-guys, puzzled victims, marks.


The pieces were knowing and sly. Deliberately tired, trumpingly effective and functional: signs given a personifying existence as 'players', as quasi-characters ('faces'—of a sort Jawlensky would have been surprised to see dragooned to these functions)—standing on little feet, occupying space and each offering its one word mantra, performing its cajoling directive: win! lose! look up, down, across: 'new' expressions of disappointment, anger, stupefaction, rube-like eagerness, consternation.


Vintage Andy P—of a piece with his work of the last decade. Some viewers might remember his startling and amusing assemblage of quite similar figures, gambits and techniques—'Buzz, Fizz Pop'—at CACSA's NewNew of 2010. 


On the wall, stage right from the assembled melée, was a mural in effect: abutting panels that were never going to be easily taken in  with so many items coming between the painted image and the viewer. Of course, one could plant oneself amidst them and move carefully to read it all from left to right or right to left, but at fairly close range.


To see it all one needed to be pressed against the all opposite, deep within the array of joking signs and automatons. I think the painting was done very quickly, even by Petrusevics' lightning standard—very largely just so as to fill a wall that would otherwise have seemed lamely blank. painted it enclosed' the objects on that side, extended the installation to the whole gallery not just to an uncertain most-of-it. It's manner—the very fact of its being painting—recalled the Petrusevics of another vintage that ran from the late 80s thru the 90s and which was extraordinarily and deservedly popular and, perversely, not sufficiently highly rated for seeming so easy and so easily likeable. This, even tho it was not always without critical edge: vast dollops of irony and sarcasm about taste, fashion, iconicity, race even. The mode may even come too easy for Petrusevcs himself to value it or to find it any challenge. This painting could not help having much of that Dufy-esque charm. Rhetorically it contributed the overall work an important counterbalance. Where the installation showed a representative population—of crooks and shysters, and villains and saviours (all hardy perennials), and advertising or political prompts and emoji-like symbols to do with 'political life now'—the panting represented the larger, more total life-world that these things mis-governed, competed over, fouled up: a notional city or polis, looking lively, busting, but also inefficient and taxed and handicapped by their workings. Beautiful—especially as inspired graphic painting and graphic line—but also tangled, enmeshed. A lever on one side of Dissonant Nation, by a series of pulleys and connections, moved a sleeve across the room (bearing the label 'policy') that pointed to this outside, larger world. Dissonant Nation was one small installation, but very on the ball. Acerbic, funny, sour, even (affectedly) mindlessly cheerful: depressing, but since Who wasn't? you had to laugh—laugh and regret and laugh again. It was nice thinking about it—and seeing it was sort of exhilarating.

Interview: Monte Masi

Andy Petrusevics

Buzz, Fizz, Pop

"The New New" CACSA