They say that figures and faces encountered in dreams are remembered, not generated, that each is someone you’ve chanced upon in life. Enter the cavernous gallery of Sanya Kantarovsky’s paintings at Luhring Augustine’s Tribeca location, and you will be greeted by a litany of faces—haunted, ghoulish, and disarmingly particular. The word “portrait,” apparently, doesn’t rightly apply here—portraits are of real people, and these beings, with distorted and cartoon-like features, don’t qualify as such. And yet the psychological interiority of each of these visages is so keenly felt that they seem to have bloomed to the surface of these canvases, disrupting their very depiction.
Take the nonplussed woman with over-large, bug-like eyes, looking askew with pouting lips, fingers bending dramatically with the displeasure or irritation of what she hears on the phone; the device is marked with a highlight that is actually the bare surface of canvas, scratched clean. Or a pair of what might only be termed as monsters: one a doe-eyed and sweet youth whose disturbingly fleshy green skin seems primed to slough off, like a corpse. Or a man with tight, maroon skin and the kind of sneer that emerges when mummified skin dries taut over teeth. They have no names—only Face 1, Face 2, Face 3—but they don’t need them. They’ll surely haunt your dreams.
Sanya Kantarovsky, Face 4, 2021. Oil and watercolor on linen, 19 3/4 x 15 3/4 inches. Photo: Jeffrey Sturges. © Sanya Kantarovsky; Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York.