Gregory Klassen
Oct  1 - Dec 13, 2022

Presented with Max Lawton 

Care and Maintenance of the Intermediate Block presents a suite of drawings in charcoal and pastel by artist Gregory Klassen. Created in response to and as illustrations for writer Vladimir Sorokin’s book Their Four Hearts (translated by Max Lawton), the body of work envisions a world in parallel to Sorokin’s words, which tell of four characters’ lives unfolding violently as the fallacies of the Soviet Union unravel around them.

Presenting dozens of drawings by Klassen—from single page portraits torn from a spiral sketchbook to large-scale scenes on multiple sheets of paper, and including both drawings from the three dozen published in the book alongside more from the nearly 200 in the series —the exhibition pans across a literary and historical timeline of civil and ethical decay. “His illustrations,” Lawton writes, “allow the reader to pretend they are entering into a storybook-world instead of the aberrant flesh-libido of the Soviet system.”

Radiating the dark angst and violent whims at the crumbling of the Soviet Union, Klassen’s mark-making builds up the frenetic ethos of Sorokin’s story of structural decomposition without autocratic artifice. Conceptually, historically, and visually, Klassen’s drawings exist in orbit with the works of artists who served as soldier-witness to and searing critic of collapsing empires, including Otto Dix, George Grosz, and Max Beckmann from Weimar Germany, but also Alfred Kubin and his nightmarish scenes of state authority and human depravity in Austria-Hungary at the turn of the twentieth century. Klassen, reckoning with the heaviest socio-political implosion at the turn of the twenty-first, similarly focuses his eye on the degeneracy of anti-humanist society in which any person’s fate is a roll of the dice.

Lawton deciphers the drawings with a fitting alchemy of sacerdotal terms and sacrilege: “Greg’s drawings are the rosary beads of Sorokin’s world, as they represent the power and beauty of art in even the most wretched corners of human history (and are any of its corners not wretched?!). In that sense, as an artist, Greg is the only one of the novel’s hearts to remain as such––to not have become a die as the other four do at novel’s end.”

Visualizing all of the objects, all the places, all the people, Klassen’s drawings for Their Four Hearts renders a kaleidoscopic encyclopedia of images that make the story visible without abridgment, facing every page and the painful, ecstatic nihilism exposed therein.

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