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Tragic Timing. Pavel Pepperstein and Marko Mäetamm: An exhibition at the Odile Ouizeman Gallery

Neither Pepperstein nor Mäetamm really care whether you weep or bellow with laughter.  They live and work on their nerve-ends. Their prime aim is not be funny or tragic, but they are both. We don't see Napoleon weeping as he sees his treasured prize, Moscow, go up in flames.  Everyone is not laughing while they have fun in Mäetamm's orgy.

Comedy usually relies on timing, which makes it difficult for artists making lasting paintings. Pepperstein and Mäetamm are two contemporary artists breaking this rule, and part of the reason for their success is that they are not comics. They are not stand up comedians, deliverers of one punch line. They get into our hearts and heads through those tingling nerve ends.

Pepperstein usually operates on a macro, almost cosmic level, while Mäetamm pads through his own home and looks under the beds , sofas and the cracks between the family unit. The aim of this exhibition is to show how these differences actually highlight a common conceptual approach. They both live in their heads and offer to take us with them. They are like separate planets with their own atmospheres and gravitational fields, yet they are in the same galaxy.  Mäetamm's Circus is an allegory for all art and all fantasy. He appears to have actually cut his wife in half when it is only meant to be a trick. Did Ivan the Terrible really mean to kill his son? Pepperstein reduces the act to its cartoon simplicity.

Perhaps both Pepperstein's and Mäetamm's work is about timing after all, but it is the very questioning of the man made invention of time. The artists and their audience can happily and amusingly live in their heads most of the time. Then irreversible tragedy strikes.

Tragic Timing. Pavel Pepperstein and Marko Mäetamm: An exhibition at the Odile Ouizeman Gallery
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