Review: Attila Richard Lukacs at the Art Gallery of Hamilton.

October 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Lazy Kunstler and the Well- Travelled Monkey (Lukacs)

Enfant terrible of the 1980s, Attila Richard Lukacs doesn’t show his work very often in this country, yet he’s one of its most consistently brilliant painters. Too good to be readily imitated or understood, he’s often languished at the periphery of Canadian art. His works are huge, violent and ambitious. They fuse an impressive catalogue of techniques from the Old Masters to the best of abstraction. Calling on art historical references culled from Velazquez, Goya and David, he filters them through a complex personal iconography that often borrows heavily from the journalistic chronicles of war zones, Indian erotic miniatures and gay BDSM porn.

The Art Gallery of Hamilton is currently showing a swathe of his work. Taken from the extensive collection of Salah Bachir, the paintings span his eclectic career, including his recent foray into ornate botanical paintings and some rather unsuccessful abstracts. In one room, life-sized portraits of skinheads, painted Gainsborough style, sit beside the loving rendition of military rituals. In another room, the archangel Micheal is recast in a golden diptych – half anti-capitalist poster, half phone sex ad – while the show’s third room is reserved mostly for homoerotic re-imaginings of classical paintings. It’s hard not to be stunned by the technical acumen and the brilliance of design he exercises. But what really makes Lukacs remarkable is how extreme and uncompromising his vision of a violent homosexual utopia devoid of femininity and streaked with mysticism is.

David and Goliath (Lukacs)

To the gallery’s credit, they’ve used the breadth of the space well, never crowding it. They also demonstrate a profound care for lighting and even painted the walls to suit, not in generic white, but in deep blues and greys. However, one could quibble that they play it safe on content. There’s nary a bit of the monkey scat, bloodletting orgies or erections that are so essential to his work.

Attila Richard Lukacs from the Collection of Salah J. Bachir, curated by Melissa Bennett runs at the AGH from October 8 – December 31.

– Matt Purvis

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