Zahar Vaks

"RAP PAINTING" - 522 West 19th Street, New York

January 20, 2024 to February 24, 2024
Opening reception January 20, 2024, 4-7 PM

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SLAG&RX is delighted to announce Rap Painting, featuring recent works by Zahar Vaks. This marks Vaks's first solo exhibition with SLAG&RX - New York.

In Rap Painting, Zahar Vaks transcends boundaries, ignites emotions, and skillfully layers metaphors, just like a rap performer crafts words and rhythm to convey vibrant stories and social critiques. Whether it's the visual poetry of the paintings or the poetic verses that seamlessly flow through the beats, both art forms possess the power to inspire, incite change, and leave a profound impact on their audiences.

To speak of Zahar Vaks’ oeuvre is to embark on a narrative that surpasses the conventional boundaries of art purely as a sensory provocation; it is an invitation to immerse oneself within a realm where the tangible and the corporeal converge with the emotional and the historical, resulting in a complex visual chronicle.

At the heart of Vaks' practice lies an intricate dance between concealment and revelation. Like a skilled weaver, the artist interlaces complex layers of meaning into his work, challenging the viewer to gaze beyond the surface. This visual dialogue between the seen and unseen is punctuated by the use of unconventional materials that add depth and texture to his canvas: the organic blend of balsam fir resin with its earthy companions — moss and clay, the delicate balance between the ephemeral and the eternal with found objects like lighters and meteorites, all set against the poetic backdrop of oxidized cherry juice.

It's not just the tangible substances that infuse Vaks’ works with a profound sense of place and time, but also the precise and subtle choice of clothing as the substrate for his art. These are not mere fabrics stretched into anonymity but rather vestiges of a life lived with intensity, repositories of personal history that say a lot of Vaks’ journeys. Clothes once worn, now serve as vessels for storytelling, canvases that narrate tales of migration, of loss, of the quiet defiance in the face of oppression and the turmoil wrought by Putin's war in Ukraine. These garments, now artifacts, are both poignant and potent in their simplicity, square or rectangular chronicles of the artist's Russian and Ukrainian Jewish lineage.

 In Rap Painting, Zahar Vaks curates an atmosphere that is immersive and contemplative. Viewers may find themselves surrounded by canvases that serve both as windows into fantastical worlds and mirrors reflecting his innermost thoughts. The spaces he creates are charged with an energy that oscillates between confrontation and introspection, pushing and pulling the audience into a cadence of understanding and interpretation.

The use of familiar materials like gesso or primer in conjunction with raw canvas creates a duality that mirrors the artist's own duality of experience — living between worlds, between the unvarnished truth and the protective layers we create for ourselves. Vaks’ paintings are etched with the memories of childhood, shadows of a time marred by trauma and the subsequent search for asylum from a crumbling Soviet Union.  It is an encounter with resilience, a dialogue with the past, and a confrontation with the ghosts that linger in fabrics and pigments alike.

Rap Painting is an ode to the persistence of memory, the strength found in vulnerability, and the unspoken power of art to bear witness to the unbeatable human spirit.


About the artist, Zahar Vaks

Zahar Vaks (b. 1983, Tashkent, Uzbekistan) received his BFA from Tyler School of Art and his MFA from The Ohio State University. His artwork has been exhibited in various cities including New York, Philadelphia, Columbus, Las Vegas, Beijing, Houston, Vienna, and the island of Svalbard in Norway, just to name a few. In 2018, Zahar Vaks was invited to participate in the prestigious Rauschenberg Residency. He was also an artist-in-residence at the Galveston Artist Residency from 2012 to 2013. Notably, Zahar Vaks is the recipient of the 2023 Rema Hort Mann Foundation Grant. Currently, Zahar Vaks resides and works in Brooklyn, NY.

Additional images and information can be found on the artist's pages:

Zahar Vaks