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Santa Monica

Such names as Igor Kopystianski and Svetlana Kopystianskaya usually hit the American press during steroid crises at the Olympics. A sign of the changing times, the couple are among a handful of Soviet artists who emerged last summer during Sotheby’s groundbreaking auction in Moscow and have subsequently graced the pages of art magazines, looking as if they’d be more at home in classy Manhattan lofts than in any “evil Empire.”

Igor makes “destroyed” and “restored” paintings that ape images culled from art history slides: Netherlandish landscapes, Baroque portraits, even a Greek goddess. Toying with our notions of history, nostalgia and originality, he paints each in a slightly different style and “violates” the works by cutting them up and reassembling them, burning holes into them or scraping paint to imitate a conservator’s worst nightmare. Conceptually subversive and intentionally crude, some works mask the artist’s technical virtuosity. We see both his wit and deft hand in a lush still life where he peels away bits of finished canvas to show, like surgically exposed viscera, the gooey underpainting that makes up each illusionistic pear or grape.

Svetlana’s works are less provocative. She covers long swaths of canvas with iridescent blues and lilacs, then writes in large cursive writing that looks from a distance like mere surface decoration but is actually Cyrillic lines of old Russian narratives. Then she sews the text-covered canvas into billowing folds or crinkled clusters pressed into canvas shapes. The works have a uniquely feminine hand but nothing to do with feminism. Alluding to Russian literature’s privileged place in the arts, they dredge up sacred church parchments and redundant patriarchal scribbles. (Dorothy Goldeen Gallery, 1547 9th St., to April 29.)--M.D.


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