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Shay Kun

These works of Shay Kun (1974, Israel) are an infusion, a hybrid of absurdities. Drawing on the style and subject matter of the Hudson River School, particularly Thomas Cole’s reverent paeans to nature and Albert Bierstadt’s awestruck visions of the sublime in the American West, these works capture the grandeur of nature. Despite acquiring a newly cultured look, these landscapes, made with sincerity and attention, are transformed into a juxtaposition of nature and its human invaders, who appear in the guise of tourists or adventure seekers. The contrast between these contemporary characters and their stylized environment is abrupt and, despite their small scale, they are an almost offensively inadequate substitute for the deities or characters of noble bearing that filled their place in the painting of the past centuries. The elements populating these series of paintings of the American West are small but obnoxious, infesting nature more so than enjoying its restorative powers. While Cole and his colleagues ascribed spiritual qualities to the environment, and warned of the destruction being caused by expansion, here the damage has been done. Lakes are littered with junked cars and pristine vistas blighted by tightropes, rickety bridges and other evidence of human interlopers. Still, what these visitors leave are their traces; they have not overwhelmed the environment and its magical possibilities.