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November 18-December 31, 2006 at Klapper Gallery, West Hollywood

by Nancy Kay Turner

“Skins” is the evocative title of a three artist show that brings together veteran Los Angeles artists Peter Liashkov, Harrison Storms and Pierre Picot, each with their own unique vision of the body and soul. Liashkov, who also curated the exhibit, works on translucent fiberglass vellum that is aptly called synskin. “Lovers” depicts two people literally without a skin or membrane border between them. At first, only the male is immediately visible, with the top of his head and his feet showing. Slowly, the back of the nude female becomes visible. Like a ghostly apparition, she is translucent, allowing the viewer to see through to her lover. Liashkov’s elegant draftsmanship and the delicacy of his line, coupled with the soft and intriguing surface, makes this a poignant image of intimacy as well as a rumination on the perils of bonding (one can literally disappear).

“Old Man 4, MB ( #281)” is meant to be seen from both sides, literally turning the figure inside out. Inscribed on the old man’s body is Michelangelo’s Sonnet #281 (in Italian). In English translation it reads: ”My fire once used to burn even in the cold ice, but that burning fire is cold ice to me. . .” This moving image, replete with barely discernable sagging breasts, flaccid penis and droopy eyelids, is faded and vulnerable, expressing the inexorable passage of time. Liashkov also exhibits portraits, done in oil, sandwiched between glass, like giant biological slides. These lushly colored and expertly painted images are deeply emotional. They focus strictly on the face, in contrast to his larger works.

Peter Liashkov, “Lovers”, charcoal,
acrylic, oil, plaster, powdered
pigment on Synskin, 96 x 48”.

Peter Liashkov, "Old Man 3", acrylic,
charcoal and powdered  pigments
on Synskin,  82"x45".

Pierre Picot, "Untitled", ink & charcoal
drawing on rice paper, 23 1/2" x 17".

Pierre Picot, "Untitled", ink & charcoal
drawing on rice paper, 23 1/2" x 17".
Pierre Picot’s wonderfully eccentric large-scale achromatic drawings peel back the epidermis to show us the insides of the figure. One of these “Untitled” images is of a seemingly pregnant woman, another is that of a male winged figure (perhaps a fallen angel).

Both of their bodies are drawn in profile, with obsessive, repetitive lines representing fanciful and vaguely anatomical internal structures. Both of these compellingly rendered, truncated torsos recall the illustrations found in Victorian medical books detailing strange diseases and other curiosities. Quirky, humorous and yet oddly moving, these creatures seem real, mythical and invented all at the same time. Reminiscent of the many statues of antiquity that have lost limbs and heads over the ages, Picot’s work invokes all we can know and much that which we cannot about the human body and the soul.

Harrison Storms, with his “John’s Canyon” series appears to be covering and uncovering the figure as he scrapes away the outer layer of the surface. In the large scale “John’s Canyon 001,” the limestone is scrubbed, sanded, and flayed, creating a wonderfully weathered surface filled with traces or vestiges of the human form. Storms’ work is the most reductive of the three artists, and his work is profoundly spiritual, reminiscent of Stephen De Staebler’s ceramic sculptures. In the small work on paper, “John’s Canyon 008” the figure is frontal, centered and appears like a spectral ghost. This red image, which also looks like blood on a gauze bandage, is both potent and spooky. These remains call to mind the Shroud of Turin, with only the barest trace of the human visible, like an oily stain seeping through the muslin and coalescing into an image of God or man. All three of these artists explore what is inside man, the essence of his humanity. In doing so, they connect gritty physicality to transcendent spirituality in works that are as mysterious as they are moving.

[Note--Liashkov is also the subject of a solo show of work from recent series, “Outside In/The Body Unearthed,” at the El Camino College Art Gallery, South Bay—Ed.]

Harrison Storms, “John’s Canyon
001”, 2003, acrylic and limestone on
masonite, 108 x 82 x 3”.

Harrison Storms, “John’s Canyon
008”, 2004, acrylic and ink on
paper, 12 1/2 x 10 3/4”.