In "Grapeshot", Stuart Elster presents a suite of new works and expanded approaches within an ongoing exploration of painting and its temporal artifacts, nascent mythologies and unmoored monuments.
Providing through-line and foundational structure: graphite, a medium defined by allusions to drafts, doodles, necessary revisions and notes to self; is cast by Elster in an array of mercurial roles: The modest, multipurpose, readily accessible tool, smuggled if necessary, to the isolated, imprisoned or responsibly self-isolated artist/author within the home-as-studio austerities of pandemic time to the more classical, weighty significance of artist's notebooks, the preparatory sketches in advance of burial under paint and painterly marks.
The lone painting "Iceberg (That Sank The Titanic). 2020", provides a retrospective view and jumping off point for unfolding motifs and a dramatic expansion of Elster's previous explorations of Johns-ian rigors and reverence towards catalytic entanglements between images and titles, language and meaning, medium and materiality.
In "Iceberg (That Sank The Titanic) 2021" Elster reverses the traditional chronology of pencil before brush while introducing a sculptural/sepulchral elements into an historic event and image lexicon redolent with near-biblical causes and (special) effects.
Elster's interest in a quotidian language full of long lost nautical terminology ("the cat's out of the bag".."a broadside attack"..."tide over"..."Taken Aback". "toe the line") dovetails with visual gambits designed to unsettle themes of assimilation and obsolescence. The exhibition's title "Grapeshot" resonates within and across the two graphite drawings "Crushing and Pressing #1" + "Crushing and Pressing #2" 2021..it's origin as a term for cheaper, faster and occasionally improvised payload for a cannon to fire at an enemy ship, in a desperate moment, when the cannonballs had all run out captures something of the spirit of graphite in an emergency and a pencil sketch liberated from mere accuracy.
The commingled expressions of historical records and the time-signatures within materials and mark-making are foregrounded within and between three graphite drawings, all sharing the title "Fine". Cast as simultaneous referent (the familiar closing end title card from the first 50 years of Italian cinema) and fated image progressing (or dissolving) towards its final state.
In a similar re-tooling of timelines, progression and moral denouement, "Babel" 2020. Graphite on Paper describes not one but two potential loopholes/workarounds to punishable hubris: As long as it remains unfinished everything will be fine OR once spoken language is scattered, visual language is revealed as shatter-proof. "Drunken Noah" (With Frame)- 2021 and its intricate assemblage supports the Kabbalistic story behind the story, the work of the initiate as opposed to obedience of the observer.
Variations on artistic ambitions and the inevitable moral universe described by an artist while they are busy describing something else are crucially and humorously described across POOP (Skull), 2020/2021 + POOP (Jaw)- 2020/2021 + Origin of Drawing, (Dylan, David, Self Portrait) 2021. Among the most unprecedented and provocative images within the exhibition, with them Elster suggests new values and revitalized usages for a defiant humor amidst the pieties of visual conventions and historical consequences.