Drew Lowenstein reviews the exhibition Stuart Elster: Cinderella Liberty at Junior Projects, New York, on view through June 1, 2014.
Lowenstein writes: "The WWI Dazzle Camouflage project sought to reorder the visual composition of the boats by actually painting abstract shapes onto the boats’ outer surfaces. In his paintings, Elster inversely constructs boatness from the abstract camouflage patterns of Dazzle. Elster’s glyphic facture of criss-crossing planes is nuanced, precise, and assuredly swift. He really slathers on the paint. With a palette knife or similar tool, he presses, glides, incises and sculpts the paint into a sumptuous relief of precise textural delight. Imagine Wayne Thiebaud painting a Charles Sheeler... By selecting an episode in which military power dovetails with modern painting invention, Elster points out the complex and fraught relationship between artistic modernism and the state. From the utilization of Constructivist agit-prop in rallying support for the Red Army against the White Russians, to our own State Department’s use of Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art as a soft power tool of statecraft during the Cold War, the nature of representation, distortion and abstraction remains a vital interest."