organized by Knockdown Center curator-at-large Stacie Johnson
with thanks to Jane Wenger
Knockdown Center presents sculptural work by Anna Mikhailovskaia alongside works on paper by John Schacht. The pairing starts an unlikely dialogue where shared sensibilities and visual energies become apparent despite contrasts in the artists’ backgrounds.
This exhibition is the posthumous debut of John Schacht, a relatively unknown self-taught artist working primarily in Chicago until 1981 when he relocated to rural Iowa until his death in 2009. Schacht participated in the Chicago art scene during the 60’s and 70’s alongside the Chicago Imagists and the Hairy Who. On the periphery of that scene, Schacht’s work is similarly committed to a fantastical, vibrant, vulgar, and personal aesthetic. Like many of the Chicago Imagists, Schacht’s work was inspired by a home filled with trinkets and antiques.
Mikhailovskaia was born in Kiev, Ukraine, raised in Brooklyn, and has been working in Brooklyn since her 2007 MFA at RISD. In a different era of art-making than Schacht, Mikhailovskaia investigates sculpture and its relationship to installation, performance, painting and architecture. Her work is inspired by the sculptural work of Cy Twombly, the artist James Lee Byers, the Japanese movement Mono-ha as well as Brutalist Architecture. An artist, writer and curator, Mikhailovskaia has produced public sculpture at Fidelity Investment’s Certified Wildlife Habitat in Smithfield, RI and exhibits regularly around New York City.
Where Schacht’s intimate works on paper are flowing and organic, rawly emotional and indulgent, Mikhailovskaia’s sculptural works are concise and geometric, exuding efficiency and restraint. Schacht’s works are diaristic and explore sexuality. Mikhailovskaia’s works appear as architectural fragments or found objects, but reveal themselves as carefully crafted to challenge the viewer’s perception of weight and surface.
Both artists manifest a similar mystical quality through pattern and contrast. Schacht mixes abstract and representational imagery using decorative patterns and rich, saturated colors in a stream-of-consciousness style. Mikhailovskaia’s minimal color relationships are paired with intense and uneven textures, bold patterns, and extreme material experimentations.
This exhibition is a rare chance to see work by two under-recognized artists, one from a few decades ago and the other contemporary. In this odd juxtaposition, the viewer can wander between intimate and large-scale works to find unexpected similarities between two artists making sincere work.