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Kurt Von Voetsch at UB Anderson Gallery

Cancer and the Man

This exhibition of drawings and mixed media reminds me of a horrible reoccurring dream I had, in which I was trying to dislodge or regurgitate something I imagined I swallowed. Sometimes it was a handful of small screws or paper clips or push pins, ridiculous ingestions that even on waking still made me cough and gag, trying to spit them out.

It’s something like the impression Kurt Von Voetsch’s work in the UB Anderson Gallery leaves on me…subject matter that is at once buried and surfaces in the subconscious in a word and picture salad of pop-cultural allusions playing at the edges of some wider significance. In the clinical environs of the far gallery, Von Voetsch creates a self-abnegating document of disease. Churning his drawings into a whirlwind, he concocts an architecture of studio residue, wrapped, folded, and rolled into structural supports for Gorgon-like sentinels that frame the one truly decipherable message: “Idiot with Cancer.”

Muted by the soundless clamor of his commanding ego are long-standing personal issues with body image and identity. In these chaotic assemblages, preoccupations with the inadequacies of his youth and fallibility as an adult artist often cross fragile boundaries from the personal to public as he gouges caustic and coruscating inroads on the viewer’s complacency about art, life, and the banality of mortality. In this shape-shifting soup of images Von Voetsch correographs a kind of pseudo-viseral phantasm of guilt and accusation, bile, rage, and beseeching petition all in one. Recurring images of snuffed candles, and benign Tinker Bell butterflys attest to Von Voetsch’s living with a cancerous tumor and all the “best-practice” expenses of treatment—psychological, physical, and monetary—that both revolt, educate, and excite the viewer in a rapturous self-indictment of his art, his city, and his life.

j. tim raymond

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