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Odd couple: Knockdown Center pairs Anna Mikhailovskaia with John Schacht

Former door factory turned art space in Queens shows work by the contemporary Ukrainian artist alongside the posthumous debut of the self-taught artist

by Gabriella Angeleti  |  9 June 2016
Odd couple: Knockdown Center pairs Anna Mikhailovskaia with John Schacht
Recent works by the Ukrainian-born artist Anna Mikhailovskaia are displayed alongside posthumous works by John Schacht, a reclusive, self-taught Chicago artist
The Knockdown Center, a former door factory in Queens that has been turned into an art gallery and performance space, has assembled a show of recent works by the Ukrainian-born artist Anna Mikhailovskaia displayed alongside posthumous works by John Schacht, a self-taught artist from Chicago.

The coupling of these artists at Knockdown “starts an unlikely dialogue where shared sensibilities and energies become apparent despite contrasts in the artists’ backgrounds”, says Vanessa Thill, the co-director of public programmes for the centre. The centre’s curator Stacie Johnson, who organised the show, was motivated to pair the two because “both artists share a similar vibration but on a very different scale. Schacht’s work is so small and intricate, and Anna’s is so big and eye-catching,” she says.

Mikhailovskaia, who was born in Kiev and is now based in Brooklyn, earned her MFA in sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design. The show includes five sculptures and two works on canvas by Mikhailovskaia. The artist says that her work is an abstract interpretation of patterns that are found in nature. This can clearly be seen in Sky Rock (2015), a boulder-like construction created from mixed mediums, or Untitled (Colorful Crusty Holes) (2016), a three-dimensional work created with plywood and acrylic.

Johnson first learned about Schacht’s work in 2010, while she worked as an archivist for the artist Jane Wenger in Chicago. Wenger was friends with Schacht in the 1960s. Despite Schacht’s connection with other artists and the Chicago art scene, he “rarely showed his work, preferring to smoke dope all day and draw what was around him,” Wenger says. When Schacht died in 2009, Wenger acquired “everything that I could get my hands on—the constructions, his folk art-inspired works, the furniture where he worked, his collection and especially his works on paper”, she says. The introductory exhibition comprises 13 undated works on paper made with watercolour, ink and gouache, as well as various sketchbooks that the artist maintained throughout his life. The exhibition runs through 19 June.

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