Beck Hanson [Beck,] one of the greatest rock and roll musicians of our time, and "a voice of his generation" 1 once said that "our generation’s job is to destroy the cliché, to recapture what we’ve lost to kitsch." 2 He is the grandson of Fluxus artist Al Hanson so he has a familial feeling for irony and cliché. None of this has anything to do with Attila Lukacs, but the point Beck was making was one that Lukacs understands. Namely that the reason a cliché has become cliché is because it worked, because at one time it had such a cultural pertinence that people felt it favorable to repeat that thing over and over again until they had rid it of resonance, killed it and turned it from art to kitsch. While the thing, or things- well; ART, was at some point worthwhile, powerful and unique, under the pressure of constant repetition and imitation, the ART has been forgotten. Take Chuck Berry’s twelve bar/three chord structure that made up Rock and Roll. Whether or not you think that Aerosmith is a good use of guitars, there is still something to be made of those three chords. Think of Picasso, then think of all the crap covering Second Cup coffee shops and remember that Picasso is still great. The point is that although this stuff has lost it’s original power, it was there at one time, it’s just been misplaced. Strip away all the piled up baggage of imitation and what you’re left with is still art.
Okay, so what does all this have to do with our boy Attila? Classical painting. Since the invention of the camera, Classical painting just doesn’t make sense. Modernism shares a lot of qualities with Classical painting, particularly Minimalism and Symbolism, with their respect for rigid composition and supernatural pictorial representation of popular ideology respectively, but Modernism sidesteps the whole struggle of photograph versus painter by failing to make any attempt whatsoever at naturalism. So why is Attila still wasting all this time thinning down his colours and applying his paint in glazes? Is it some ironic comment about the inability of the brush to match the camera? [Lukacs definitely paints from photographs; notice those blurred faces.] No! Lukacs would probably be quite upset to hear that his paintings do not match and, in fact, transcend the realism of photography. So what then? Necessity and Desire!. Attila Lukacs subjects are skinheads[nude,] swastikas, and sexuality[male; modern,] big issues all. Big issues demand big treatment, and what’s bigger then 18th century historical painting? Nothing! Lukacs has found the perfect treatment for his subject in the art of the Old masters. But doesn’t all this take a rather long time? Exactly! Attila likes to paint, the longer it takes, the more fun it is for him. Especially, being gay, when he’s painting strong, sweaty naked men. Take Klimt, Klimt liked women, so he liked to paint Women. Attila’s the same way.
Lukacs compositions are sloppy with art historical reference: In creating the necessary inner city decay for his backgrounds Lukacs owes a significant debt to Abstract Expressionism. There’s a bit of Pop Art here and there too. There’s even some Asian influence, as in ‘East vs. West’ and the entire 1995 series Lotus. But the majority of his work is straight out of the oldest, dustiest parts of the art gallery. ‘Catamite,’ depicting a man siting in the right corner of the composition, shrouded in shadow, is pure Ingres. ‘Chris’ is spegetti-odelesque, only with a boy sitter [I don’t believe for one instant that the androgynous title is really meant to disguise the gender of the subject.] The way ‘The Lazy Kunster’ sticks the man and monkey[?] at the very bottom of the composition, leaving plenty of room for foliage is pure Romanticism. [See also Manet.] He even goes as far back as the renaissance with ‘1-800 Mike;’ a painting that references both Michaelangelo the mighty muralist and St. Michael the archangel. [In this case, the divine protector of the holy phone sex line?] My favorite painting though, is one called ‘Indolence’ which references the considerably more modern influences of both Lucien Freud in the positioning of the mattress within the canvas and the position of the figure on that mattress, and Francis Bacon, in the face scrubbed into the bed sheet defined by the man’s leg and elbow and the mysterious ghostshapes under the bed.
Given all this stuff in his paintings, it’s really quite amazing that he can keep them together, as a body of work I mean. Each painting is made up of such a jumble of different periods that one would assume that as a whole there would be no cohesion, at least it sounds that way doesn’t it? Beyond his ability to render a really sexy skinhead, Lukacs’ greatest talent is the way he can render absolutely every stylistic period equal in the framework of his paintings. Lukacs canvass is the great equalizer where all art is made to be about bald guys doing physical things. Lukacs’ work has been accused of being fascist before, usually in reaction to all the skinheads and swastikas in his paintings. Lukacs’ canvasses are, however, fascist in another way; they are fascist in the way that they take all of history and make it the story of his own obsessions. Lukacs feels that his subject is important and he also feels that the history of art is important, so why shouldn’t he reduce the latter by flatly imploying it in the service of the former?
Lukacs means no harm. His art is, in an odd way, about celebration. Lukacs is celebrating the male form, he is celebrating the glory of the Old Masters, and he is Celebrating his ability to use a brush. It seems odd to me that people find his paintings frightening. They should be looked at as we look at the Old Masters; awe at the grand spectacle crafted for us, delight at the insights of psychology in the figures, respect for the attention to tiny details like the painted individual threading in a piece of cloth, and relief, that art has found less stuffy ways to represent the human experience.