Born 1976, Washington, D.C.; lives in New York, New York

Yuri Masnyj creates densely populated yet intricately spare drawings that juxtapose and continually recontextualize elements culled from graphic design, architecture, art history, and the artist's imagination. Convolutions of line produce figurative and abstract elements, including disembodied eyes, linear slashes, concentric circles, prisms, chairs, wall units, and representations of framed paintings. It is on the space of Masnyj's page that these fragments of culture— high and low, artistic and popular, autonomous and commercial— can be assembled as collections in miniature, like modern Wunderkammers turned inside out.

Masnyj works from the position that the history of art has been radically domesticated and dispersed across a broadly diluted range of cultural practices and sites. He is critical, for instance, of the ways the lofty social and political ambitions of the Russian Constructivists have been drained of effect in their recapitulation as now-empty formal structures to be appropriated for mere decoration. Masnyj questions the viability and philosophical coherence of such modernist practices: “I take the position that the visual culture my generation inherited is a kind of flotsam and jetsam—the product of an exponential deconstruction.” This deconstruction “took a mortar and pestle to the avant-garde but left art and design in splintered fragments.”

Masnyj’s work explicitly pillages the debris of our contemporary landscape, suggesting that the already small distance between the yard sale and the museum exhibition has perceptibly diminished. At stake in his reworking of such templates is not an attempted return to some imagined utopian past, but an expressionistic performance of present anxiety. Drawings such as A Collision Point, In a Blind Run, and Climbing the Hole (all 2005) attest to his calculated dynamism and deeply unsettling vision. In his installation for the 2006 Biennial, Masnyj pushes into three dimensions, filling the gallery with architectural panels, “aesthetic objects,” and graphic elements. Constituting a drawing in space, the work challenges the boundaries between media and, in the process, invites us into a fictive world in ruins that has all the ambiguities of our real one.


...read more about this artist in the Biennial Catalogue

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Climbing the Hole, 2005. Graphite on paper, 35¾ x 48 in. (90.8 x 121.9 cm). Collection of the artist; courtesy Metro Pictures, New York