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Thursday, August 26, 2010

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By Emma Krasov, photography by Yuri KrasovFor the opening of “Yuri Shiller: Infinite Impromptu” exhibition, Mishin Fine Arts gallery in the heart of San Francisco dedicated its space not only to the artist’s canvases, but also to his improvisational performances. Since Shiller and wife Svetlana own and operate Picky Fashion, for which they design wearable art, there were plenty of avant-guard dresses, hats, and body suits to put up a mini fashion show on a makeshift stage. With a background in fashion photography and stage design, Shiller has a definite eye for a female figure (his solitary subject matter), its sinuous lines, smooth curves, and accentuated poses. The artist refers to some of his paintings as “delicious,” and in one of his interviews given at previous openings elsewhere he was quoted comparing a woman to a tasty dish on the menu of life. Not surprisingly, his decorative figures depicted in saturated colors and bright artificial environments seem to come to existence for ornamental purposes only, not unlike the runway models trained to display as little personality and as much coolness and abstracted desirability as possible. Some portraits go deeper in attempts to probe the psychological level of a sitter, and invariably the expressed prevailing emotions are those of desperation, sexual frustration, and hopeful discontent. Born and raised in Leningrad (the former Soviet Union), Shiller started his artistic career in the land historically deprived of healthy and/or numerous male population. As a result of wars, military service, risky behaviors, alcoholism, and heavy smoking among other environmental factors, males have always been grossly outnumbered by females in Mother Russia. This trend, enhanced with perpetual economic hardship and political instability in recent decades, contributed to the massive and most successful mail-order bridesdom in recent history. Entire generations of young Russian women grew up with an understanding that success and sometimes survival was only guaranteed by physical attractiveness, their only true asset, and that their only marketable possession under the circumstances was sex. Shiller’s body of work, however modern, i.e. removed from any particular time and space (and ethnic identity, for that matter) seems to reflect a particular national characteristic of beautiful Russian women whose availability became their virtue. Elongated figures with outstretched hands and bubbly behinds; perfectly oval faces with magnetic eyes and scarlet lips, and overtly sexual body language of his subjects also convey endless fascination with femininity and bring to mind some compulsory adolescent behaviors. Besides the impromptu photo shoot, and a slide show of Shiller’s creative photography, another live performance preceded the unveiling of the arguably risque painting displayed in a niche behind a resulting torn curtain. The show is currently on display at Mishin Fine Arts, 445A Sutter St., San Francisco. For more information, call 415-391-6100 or visit


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