Painting Upgraded: Analia Saban at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

You'll never look at a painting and say: “OK, that's just a painting” after viewing Analia Saban's stunning New York solo debut at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery. This young Argentinian artist, who has been increasing her international exposure exponentially every year, collides artistic tropes with whimsy and serious wit in an envelope-pushing array of works that are all, essentially, paintings. — Brian Fee, Austin contributor

Analia Saban | Painting (with brush), 2012, Acrylic on canvas with acrylic toilet brush. 90 x 66 x 2 inches. Courtesy the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.

Saban has modified her artistic vocabulary, focusing it (like the laser-cutting machine used in several works here) in a conversation of contrasts and process. Here's some of that visual joy: a toilet brush hooked beneath raw canvas adorned with swipes of white acrylic paint; canvas covered in white sheeting or rumpled like a gigantic bag and filled with paint. The sublime Painting (with brush), featuring Saban's matter-of-fact naming conventions, defines the exhibition's title “Gag”. For as the term denotes a force clogging a negative space, it means likewise the visible effect of an illusion. The “toilet brush” is actually cast-acrylic paint, used to make those action-painting gestures across the canvas. It's an incredible portrayal of the act of painting, tightly disassembled. As in, how did those white streaks get there? Well, the “brush” is hanging right there.

Analia Saban | Painting (with brush) detail shot

Analia Saban | Trough (flesh), 2012, Oil paint on primed canvas. 56 x 70 x 9 inches. Courtesy the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.

Trough (flesh) looms across the gallery from Painting (with brush) and takes Saban's earlier series of Decant Paintings, sculpted encaustic “containers” affixed to canvas, to a further level. She distorted a stretcher frame, filling its primed canvas with over 100 pounds of oil paint, approximating her body weight in the spray-tan-colored medium. It's the only vividly colored instance here, and it suggests the malleability of painting's role in contemporary art, as the work itself dries slowly over many years.

Analia Saban | Gag installation view

Analia Saban | Slab Foundation #1, 2012, Concrete on canvas. 8 x 10 x 2 1/2 inches. Courtesy the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.

Saban slathered a solid two inches of concrete on raw canvas in Slab Foundation #1, forming a jumbo-sized brownie of utilitarian ingredients. Concrete Gag marries the medium's industrial physicality with a high-gloss finish. Adjacent to this is Two Stripe Bath Towel with Tag and Stain, a beguiling works that calls to mind ostensibly Paul Lee's towel assemblages (or even David Hammons' shrouded canvases). In actuality, Saban's hanging “towel” is cast-acrylic paint, its soft weave contrasting with the rough canvas backing, marred by a lifelike stain — Saban won't say exactly where that stain originated, but it's not part of the original casting.

Analia Saban | Two Stripe Bath Towel with Tag and Stain, 2012, Acrylic on canvas. 30 x 46 x 4 inches. Courtesy the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.

This lifelike vs. real duality is just one combination at play in this exhibition. Trough (flesh) contrasts wet with dry, as Slab Foundation #1 pairs lightweight canvas with dense concrete. The industrial medium also finds its architectural counterpoint in Saban's laser-cut drawings. She begins by brushing on acrylic paint, then feeds a complicated program into the machine, which burns and “sculpts” the canvas into fragile drawings like Erosion (Changing Room) #2. The end result is a perspective study constructed almost entirely of negative space.

Analia Saban | Erosion (Changing Room) #2, 2012, Laser sculpted acrylic paint on canvas. 58 x 38 x 2 inches. Courtesy the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.

Analia Saban | Gag installation view

So what constitutes a painting? Traditionally, it is the practice of applying a medium to a surface and the result of that action. It is also a paint-coated canvas etched away to form a vivid line drawing. As well, it is paint cast into a shape and slung over a canvas or poured into it. In simplifying painting to a core modus — as a “container for paint” — Saban throws caution to the art-form's limitless possibilities.

Analia Saban | Burn Hole (Part 2), 2012, Laser sculpted paper. 32 1/8 x 24 3/8 inches. Courtesy the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.


Analia Saban was born in 1980 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She received her MFA in New Genres from UCLA in 2005. Currently living and working in Los Angeles, the artist recently participated in the biennial survey exhibition Made in LA 2012, organized by the Hammer Museum in collaboration with LAXART, Los Angeles; and The Possessed, Le Triangle, Marseille (France). Current exhibitions include the Rudin Prize, Norton Museum of Art (where) and La Bellena Negra, MARCO Museum of Contemporary Art, Vigo (Spain). Saban will also participate in Lost Line: Selections from the Permanent Collection, LACMA, Los Angeles (California), beginning November 23; and the group exhibition FriArt, Fribourg (Switzerland) in November, among other shows. Gag is her debut solo exhibition in New York and continues through October 20.

Brian Fee is an art punk currently based in Austin, TX. His culture blog Fee's List covers his three loves (art, film, live music) occurring in his other three loves (the Lone Star State, the Big Apple, and Tokyo).

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