Elena Pankova at PNCA

Elena Pankova, All Untitled, 2010, Acrylic on canvas, dimensions variable. Courtesy CANADA, New York.

“Between my head and my hand there is always the face of death” is a quote from dadaist Francis Picabia. In the group show of the same name at Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA), guest curator Kristan Kennedy interprets this quote with seven contemporary painters whose works explore the psychology and mortality of the human form through the physicality of paint.

Among the more curious of works on display are Elena Pankova’s untitled installation of paintings flanked by a hanging houseplant. Crude, abstracted facial features are stenciled in layers on warm black backgrounds. From a distance, the works are vibratory dashes of pure color. Up close, you can see the artist’s hand. Some brushstrokes are transparent, painted deftly, and delicately, and the effect almost resembles cut and layered tissue paper. Others are opaque — creamy whites, powdery blues, and come off powerful, like warrior masks.

According to the Kennedy, Pankova's faces are "fractured family portraits." The plant is meant to reinforce the idea that the faces (though we're psychologically predisposed to identify with them) are not really what's alive. By deflecting our identification, it puts the focus on the medium. Pankova's paint and pattern—not subject matter—is what's most visceral. More pics after the jump.  —Kelli Rule, Portland contributor

Elena Pankova, All Untitled, 2010, Acrylic on canvas, dimensions variable. Courtesy CANADA, New York.

“Between my head and my hand there is always the face of death" is on view at Pacific Northwest College of Art through March 26 and features the work of Amy Bessone, Grant Barnhart, Kaye Donachie, Merlin James, Tala Madani, Elena Pankova, and Norbert Schwontkowski.

Kelli Rule is a writer based in Portland.

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