Decadence drives the recent work of Joseph Stashkevetch at Von Lintel — decadence as a theme and as a visual idiom. The drawings, at their most illustrative, make a forceful, graphic case against overconsumption and excess.
“All You Can Eat” blares the message through its 10-foot-tall dystopic montage of muscle, might and waste. Everything piles atop everything else, all of it resting on a bed of animal carcasses. Front and center, a car spills its mechanical guts and a drainage or sewage pipe vomits at our feet.
However impressive this spectacle, Stashkevetch’s work is at its best and most viscerally affecting when the New York-based artist evokes the atmosphere and texture of decadence rather than detailing the causes of cultural decline.
In several gorgeous, haunting pieces, he layers drawings of floral wallpaper one atop another, the outermost layer cracking, curling and peeling away like sloughed skin. The renderings, in conté crayon on heavy rag paper, are lavish feasts for the eye, all velvety, ashy blacks and foggy, smoky grays, lush sensuality from edge to edge.
Wallpaper is an ornamental veneer, a cover, a metaphor perhaps for the kind of superficial beauty that can mask unsavory qualities and vulnerabilities. When Stashkevetch compromises these rapturously embellished surfaces, making them heave with exhaustion, he taps into the universal power of mortality itself.
Von Lintel Gallery, 2685 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. Through Aug. 31. Closed Sundays and Mondays. (310) 559-5700, www.vonlintel.com