Damaged Goods

Guy Shoham

The shimmer of once precious, now discarded artifacts radiates with a kitsch that entices as much as it may repel. Guy Shoham's paintings are confusingly almost three-dimensional, just like the porcelain figurines that serve as his inspiration. He attains a true cubistic twist to his provocative and outrageous arrangements.

Reminiscent of works from the early 20th century, Shoham blends a decorative design with a glistening surface, both of which are alluring to the viewers' eyes. Yet Shoham's oeuvre remains true to principles of composition. Several of Shoham's scenes are set up as if in a shoebox diorama; invoking the influence of Joseph Cornell's assemblages of found objects. He stages his compositions theatrically and preserves a certain element of melodrama in the mundane. What evolves is something that is even more incongruous once it is translated to the canvas; Shoham elevates pretentious cast-offs to a bonafide art form.

Shoham is lured into the act of painting, for why else would he not leave his cut and paste collages "as is". He strives for the polished surface that painting affords. His more recent works establish cut-out printed images as subject matter par excellence, not unlike the figurines of his earlier works. When the artist then paints these images, in all their glossy glory, the consequence is a painted surface which entices the viewer with its synthetic shimmer. His compositions are beguiling, coquettish, not to mention gleaming. The glaze of the paint forms

a two-dimensional equivalent to the polished surfaces of the figurines that serve as inspiration. It creates a certain embalming over the objects that preserves them, for posterity. This mummification is extraordinarily manifested in "Entombment" (2005), but it occurs in nearly all of his works, regardless of the subject matter.

The women Shoham paints, such as in "The Hole" (2005), are often nude, but sometimes not entirely so. They are cropped, mutated, and Shoham achieves a certain anxiety in this muffled cross-section between reality and still-life that is only quieted when the viewer remembers the source of his subjects, in all their dime-store glory. Shoham's take on the still-life is a contemporary expression of the age-old tradition of copying statues, a technique which dates back to even the ancients. He breathes life to the inanimate, but his universe is filled with detachment and even tribulation. His focus on the sexually charged yet static female body, complemented by feminine designs - flowers, swirls, even hearts - imports a deference to the ultimate feminine language, overriding the typically dominant patriarchal communication and relying on visual stimuli. Shoham's borderline obsession with the female form is both reverent and emotionally fatiguing. The silence in his compositions, while palpable, is also shrieking with ambiguity. His inorganic subjects are anything but still. They literally burst through the surface, and in so doing enter our world. They peep out, mocking our disjointedness. The damage is conspicuous and analogous to all the mutilation in our world. Shoham makes a violent yet fanciful statement about our incoherent existence, about our own fragile nature as damaged goods.

Audrey Levy