"(Untitled) Portrait of Dad" -solo exhibition

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I Especially Love You When You are Sleeping, (detail), 2011 Graphite Pencil, Citrus Tree, Citrus Leaves, Medical Tape, Newspaper Obituaries © Diana Shpungin
"(Untitled) Portrait of Dad" -solo exhibition

29 Orchard St.
New York, NY 10002
May 22nd, 2011 - July 3rd, 2011
Opening: May 22nd, 2011 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM

east village/lower east side
Wednesday through Saturday 11am - 6pm, Sunday 12pm-6pm
mixed-media, installation, video-art, conceptual, figurative, sculpture


Diana Shpungin, detail from "I Especially Love You When You are Sleeping" 2011, graphite pencil, citrus tree, citrus leaves, medical tape, newspaper obituaries


Stephan Stoyanov Gallery

29 Orchard Street New York, NY 10002




Diana Shpungin "(Untitled) Portrait of Dad"

Gallery hours: Wed-Sat: 11am-6pm, Sun: 12pm- 6pm

Exhibition dates: May 22 – July 3, 2011

Opening Reception: May 22, 2011, 6-9pm

Public Event: Artist and Writer Walk Through and Discussion DATE/TIME: TBA

NEW YORK, NY - Stephan Stoyanov gallery is pleased to present Diana Shpungins’ first “solo” solo exhibition in New York City, "(Untitled) Portrait of Dad ” . After working in a successful collaboration from 2000-2009, Shpungin, over the past few years has developed a new highly conceptual individual body of work dealing with extremely personal subject matter. Presented here is a large selection of this never before exhibited work including numerous drawing works, sculptures, installation and hand drawn animation, filling both floors of the gallery space.

Deriving the show title from one of her favorite works of art, Shpungin"(Untitled) Portrait of Dad” gets its name from the Felix Gonzalez-Torres conceptual candy pile work, “Untitled” (Portrait of Dad). Truly a catalyst for the exhibition, his minimalist approach and profound ability of dealing with loss, personal/communal memory, and participation certainly provoked many of the works in the exhibition. Shpungin takes great reverence with Gonzalez-Torres and sees the exhibition as her small tribute to the enormity of his life and work.

Shpungins’ exhibition is conceived as sentimental memorial, superstitious display, supernatural experiment, and a scientific, psychoanalytical look at life and death, logic, personal history, partial memory, familial relationships, myth, story telling and apprenticeship. Each work in the exhibition tackles the subject of the artists’ father (a surgeon during his life) from a varied vantage point. The works examine the notion of bereavement, identity, love, regret, resentment and finality with an all-encompassing serious, humorous and poetic sensibility.

Utilizing materials such as medical tape, plaster, gauze, drywall, newspaper, ink, pencil, graphite, pins, staples, erasers, archival materials, found materials and wood in various natural and manufactured forms, Shpungin develops her own obsessive language of materials and techniques based on her fathers methods both in medicine and in domestic life. Shpungins’ use of family photography as a source emphasizes the value of personal archive in a time where the impersonal is so prevalent.

Exhibited upstairs are two sculptures, five drawing works and one hand drawn video animation. The two freestanding sculptures on view rely on an odd formal tension; severed, broken, layered, balanced and hovering. The sculptures are made from objects methodically hand coated in graphite pencil with seemingly endless strokes. “A Fixed Space Reserved for the Haunting” stems from Shpungins’ family superstition of sitting in a chair before departing a home so the guest will surely return again. It consists of a chair with one leg broken, underneath it lays a stack of obituaries with pertinent information methodically censored, the stack wrapped akin to a cast. “I Especially Love You When You Are Sleeping” depicts an orange tree, with most of its leaves fallen, balancing on two severed stacks of newspaper obituaries. The sculpture is based on the gift of a tree that was never planted due to Shpungins’ fathers’ death, the tree itself realizing a similar fate. The painstaking drawing works are installed in specific detailed displays. Drawing, pencil on paper, primarily is used as a minimal, personal and direct method. No glass is placed over the works in order for the viewer to get more uninterrupted access to the surface. These works include “Finis Coronot Opus” which is made from a towering sculptural wood form cut into the proportions of a casket, leaning on the wall and thrust vertically into the ground, the wood is covered in hundreds of rubbings from Shpungins’ fathers’ headstone, translated from Latin 2 the text reads: “the ending crowns the work”. “Until it No Longer” is based on a photographic death portrait taken by the artist, this would be the last image taken of her father. Shpungin decided to draw the portrait over and over randomly over several years until she became somewhat anesthetized to the image. The final results are presented on custom-fabricated white pickled ash wood shelves as an archive to the process. The work “Under Taken” derives from a family portrait of the artist as a self-conscious pre-teen and her father at Disney World. Shpungin dissects the photograph and draws it in heavily dense graphite silhouette; the artist left crippled with her arms only visible, the father an outline and then a shadow drawn upside down under the drawing directly on the gallery wall. The drawing itself is placed on a shelf made of rubber erasers, a division, --suggesting the impermanence of relationships and existence in general. “Apprentice Progression Methodology” depicts a human leg, a tree branch and an antique furniture leg; again in heavily layered graphite silhouette. The images are bound, repaired by medical tape; the drawing stapled on a broken segments of drywall. Shpungin uses her fathers’ subject matter and methods and translates them into her own artistic practice as a form of apprenticeship and commemoration. “His View” is a series of forty-eight drawings/animation stills depicting the view from Shpungins’ fathers’ burial site. The drawings are each secured to archival board by way of medical tape and held up by delicate pins reminiscent of medical dissection.

Many of Shpungins’ drawings are further used to create animation works, “purposely failed animations” as Shpungin describes them, never successfully animating the inanimate subject. The animation work “Endless Ocean” is based on a family photograph of the artists’ father at the beach, confidently wearing a Speedo and tightly grasping onto a seagulls leg in a playful yet unconsciously sadistic manner. The photograph was drawn many times to create the movement of the ocean and birds, while the silhouetted figure stays relatively still.

In the basement space the exhibition continuous with three more hand drawn animations and a participatory sculptural installation. In the small enclosed room “Until it No Longer” animates the drawings seen upstairs in an endless loop of dissatisfaction, the subject never moves, the image simply flickers, the pencil strokes subtly skip around the page. “His View” also animates a set of drawing works seen upstairs of the same name, A tree is seen flickering with sunlight breaking through, a figure enters and exits the frame in a gesture of both honor and resentment.

And lastly, the key work “You Will Remember This”, an animation depicting images of the artists’ father in his hospital bed (derived from the only known video ever taken of him months before his death) his own heavily accented voice is heard telling one of his many charismatic stories of determination and survival in the USSR in the late 1950’s. The story explains how he acquired his first car (a soviet made Volga) during communist rule and an underground black market culture. “1664 Sundays”, a monumental work that complements the animation consists of a massive pile of potatoes spilling out on the floor of the cellar space and collected by the artist as homage to the story. Generously given out to attendees, the potato installation includes a limited amount of signed and numbered editions, custom printed paper bags with the artist’s father’s recipe, --a simple recipe that he cooked for her on Sundays. The title “1664 Sundays” refers to the exact amount of Sundays that both the artist and her father shared during there overlapping lifetimes.

Born in Latvia’s seaside capital of Riga under Soviet rule, Diana Shpungin left with her family to Moscow, Vienna and then Rome until permanently migrating to the United States as a small child, where her family settled in New York. Shpungin received her MFA from the School of Visual Arts in NYC in 2002. She has previously exhibited in venues that include: Brooklyn Museum of Art, NY; Sculpture Center, Long Island City, NY; Fieldgate Gallery, London; Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo; Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami; Institute for Contemporary Art, Palm Beach; ARENA gallery, NY; Bass Museum of Art, Miami; Marella Arte Contemporenea, Milan; Galerie Zurcher, Paris; the collection of Martin Z. Margulies, Miami; and The Geisai Art Fair, Organized by Takashi Murakami in Miami. Shpungin was recently cited in the introduction of Jerry Saltz book "Seeing out Louder" and she has been reviewed in publications such as Flash Art, Art in America, Art Papers, The Village Voice, The New York Times, NY Arts Magazine, Timeout New York, Timeout London, Connaissance des Arts, Le Monde, The Boston Globe & Miami Herald among others. Shpungin lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

A full color brochure has been produced for the exhibition with a beautiful and poignant essay by Rachel Gugelberger, an independent curator and writer and previously Co-Director of Sara Meltzer Gallery, New York City and Associate Director of the Visual Arts Gallery at the School of Visual Arts, New York City.

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