Hand over Fist
Guy Zagursky’s new series of works presented in Hand over Fist introduces a technique recently developed by the artist, which one might call “dot-to-dot embroidery” – alluding to the world of children’s arts and crafts, yet executed with remarkable skill and artistry. This technique can be seen as somewhat of a new “jargon”, adding to a rich sculptural language formed by Zagursky and compiling his body of work.
The exhibition contains two types of works – one is a series of metal columns that have been delicately embroidered with colored threads, portraying pop culture images and mainly referencing tacky and ultra-popular tattoos: blossoming roses, pirates, sculls, hearts and other clichés. The second type of works is a group of empty gas cylinders that have also been embroidered with various popular symbols, creating an even greater tension between image and surface and inviting a sense of discomfort.
Applying Zagursky’s embroidery technique on heavy metals requires meticulous work and effort, an effort emphasizing the contrast between the intense labor put into the sculptures and the light-as-air images placed on them. Zagursky is eventually emulating the act of tattooing itself, intensified by craft: he drills each and every hole the threads go into beforehand. All of this, only to immortalize a Micky Mouse image on a useless vessel. Although the result is beautiful, it is clearly a rebellious act against image and craft, mocking the popular tendency of celebrating extremely trivial imagery on the body.
On the other hand, placing these images – silly as they may seem when inked on a forearm – out of their usual context and putting such effort into their reincarnation endows them with newfound dignity.
Hand over Fist is an American take on a British term, referring to the manner in which sailors would compete over the speed they climbed ship poles, originally phrased “Hand over Hand”. As a heavily inked sailor himself, the majority of visuals in Zagursky’s works are taken from the world the classic sailor tattoos. His work is often playful, while still offering a profound view of issues such as contemporary culture, masculinity and body image. In “Hand over Fist” he continues to be preoccupied with such matters and especially with their internal contradictions, co-existing in all aspects of his work – physically and thematically.