My work concerns the possibility of there being a future.
Born in the capital of a crumbling empire and raised in destitute Upstate New York, my life has been shaped by two distinct failures: the Russian Revolution, which my great grandfather fought in, and the American Dream, which my father came to this country to find. Somewhere at the end of the twentieth century, both of these narratives break down—part of a pattern of ecological, political, semiotic and economic collapses that have defined the postmodern era. In this space of collapse, I am interested in what it means to imagine a future—to reclaim the future as a space by a detour through the past.
Haunted by the humanist tradition, I paint nudes that embody discarded ideas about truth, enlightenment and progress. These outmoded figures are incorporated into installations with plants, text, furniture, and everyday objects, each group articulating a different relationship to yesterday’s ideals. The goal is not to go back to Titian, but to interrogate the impossibility of going back. If one cannot paint like Michelangelo today, perhaps we have not yet reached the end of history—that droll conclusion where all styles are equal, and all progress terminates. Perhaps there is room for progress yet to come. By trying to paint in ways that are impossible today, my work attempts to push through our postmodern malaise into some kind of constructive space—on the other side of capitalism’s eternal present—where the project of world-building can begin again.
Phil Rabovsky (b. Moscow, 1987) grew up in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York. After receiving his BA in visual art, philosophy, and linguistics from Columbia University in 2009, he lived for a time in Budapest before resettling to New York City, where he completed his MFA in Art Practice at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in 2018. In the fall semester of 2018, he returned to SVA in the capacity of visiting artist at the BFA program. Rabovsky is a member of Shoestring Press in Brooklyn, where he teaches classical painting techniques and has exhibited in two-person shows with printmaker Lane Sell. He has participated in group shows at Brooklyn and Manhattan-based galleries such as Shoestring Press, the Greenpoint Gallery, Friday Studio Gallery, Van Der Plas Gallery, and SVA’s Chelsea and Flatiron Galleries. His first solo show, Venticento, opened at Van Der Plas Gallery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 2018. Rabovsky’s work has been written about in Brooklyn Magazine and A Gathering of the Tribes, and featured in Tribes’ Word: An Anthology. His thoughts on art and culture occasionally appear in Tribes’ online magazine at tribes.org.