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THOMAS KOVACHEVICH

September 14 - November 3, 2002 at Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica

by Jody Zellen


Thomas Kovachevich has had a varied career. In addition to being an exhibiting artist who resides in New York City, he is also a practicing physician. A self taught artist, his works draw from his medical career and from common objects. Kovachevich begins with what he finds, he transforms the mundane--cuts up pieces of papers, colors discarded plastic wrappers and transforms them into curious works of art.

Kovachevich began exhibiting in the 1970s and has been included in numerous exhibitions throughout the United States and abroad. His work could be termed as abstract minimalism; his influences: land art, minimal art and Arte Povera. For Paper/Plastic/Paint Kovachevich has created more than 100 paintings that range in size from 2 x 2 inches to 10 x 30 inches. Each work, acrylic on plastic is made from the vacuum-formed plastic packaging that usually covers objects like combs, tooth brushes, batteries, cameras, toy guns and even swim suits. Kovachevich fills the inside of the plastic skins with paint, sometimes re-presenting the object, but more often than not, mixing colors and gestures to create something else--defamiliarizing us with what we can infer was once there. For example, he paints the packaging from four white nightlight bulbs so that the bulbs are yellow with red bases. They are surrounded by black paint, as well as by traces of the original packaging. When painting a package of toy fruit, he paints the bananas yellow, the apples and cherries red and grapes green. However, not all of his paintings have a one to one correspondence with the original: many are pure abstractions.

These works become colorful ghosts; outlines and memories of what they contained, transformed by the artist’s concept into something at once beautiful and strange. The power in Kovachevich's work comes from the fact that they are produced en mass. One does not marvel at the uniqueness of the single object or at the intricate quality of the paint, but rather at the collection created and the similarities and differences between their form, color and gesture.

While the painted plastic works might be a point of departure for Kovachevich they obviously grew out of his past endeavors. Previous objects include sculptures made from folded or rolled paper, small pieces of cardboard and cotton. There is often a performative aspect to Kovachevich's work. Drawn from his medical experiences seeing cotton floating in water, he began to experiment with what happened to paper when placed in a bowl of water. Interested in both the ephemeral as well as the experiential, numerous works were created from the results of these experiments. In an installation created in Marseilles, France in 1988 he molded and shaped large pieces of paper, attached them to the wall, and let gravity and humidity do the rest. He stated: "I love working with paper because it is an open-ended metaphor for humans." Much of Kovachevich's work has an intimate quality to it. He is interested in the intersection between control and accident and "invests geometry with an emotional content."


“Untitled,” 2002, paint and
plastic packaging.




“Untitled,” 2002, paint and
plastic packaging.




“Untitled,” 2002, paint and
plastic packaging.




“Untitled,” 2002, paint/plastic
packaging/packing tape.

In addition to exhibiting the more than 100 paintings from discarded plastic packaging, Kovachevich has also created a large scale sculpture from brown paper packing tape. This work, like others before, will change due to the atmospheric conditions in the gallery. What was once a crisp and rigid form may gradually disintegrate before our collective eyes.

While Kovachevich may not have had a lot of recent gallery exposure, each installation is a production and an unique experience. Although not exactly site specific, each opportunity opens new doors for reflection and experimentation. Situated between object and installation Paper/Plastic/Paint is an evocative collection of works that lets you go where you want with your emotions.