Pasternak Solo Exhibition at the Anchorage Museum

Igor Pasternak wields a paintbrush like it’s a scalpel, cutting through the skin of the art world to reveal its beating heart.

In his first solo exhibition, “Means Over Ends,” Pasternak exuberantly emphasizes the creative process. With every installation, sculpture and film, he asks the viewer: Is the whole truly greater than the sum of its parts? Or more specifically, is the act of making art more meaningful than the result?

“For example, I see those ugly wooden figures people carve with chainsaws,” he said. “But then I look at the carvers, the way they move, the way they dip their chainsaws. I find this process much more beautiful and interesting than their final carvings.”

Born in Odessa, Ukraine, Pasternak and his family found political asylum in the United States in 1992 after Perestroika. What followed was a series of career starts and stops, including cab driving, engineering and computer programming. In 2009 he earned a master’s degree in studio art from American University in Washington, D.C. Now he’s an artist who can write computer code or do electrical wiring for his own art installations.

In “Means Over Ends,” the Fairbanks artist debuts a series of celebrity portraits made from construction materials. He uses plywood as a canvas and paints with a sealant carpenters call “black death.” In a typical building, these materials are covered up by walls and floors, surfaces prepared to display art. Here,these materials are the art, their beauty rooted in their functionality.

Igor Pasternak, "The Club" (installation fragments), black caulk sealant, vapor barrier film, plywood, 2011

Pasternak is best known for conducting visual experiments in public places and encouraging viewer participation. This exhibition features two interactive works including “20 Minutes of Fame.” In this piece, box fans are programmed to blow for 20 minutes. Visitors may create a paper collage on the fan’s backside, the suction suspending the collage in place. When the fans stop blowing, the collage pieces rain down and the art disintegrates in seconds.

“20 Minutes of Fame” celebrates and mourns the temporary nature of creation. The piece also erases the line between artist and viewer. “The established rule of museums is ‘Do not touch,’ ” Pasternak said. “There’s an amazing moment when the viewer steps over this barrier. They are really tentative, and then something clicks inside them and they become different people: active, smiling, creative.”

At 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, Igor Pasternak offers a free tour of his new solo exhibition and talks about his work, including his experiences with interactive art.

This exhibition is presented as part of the Patricia B. Wolf Solo Exhibition Series. The Anchorage Museum is grateful to the Alaska State Council on the Arts; the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency; the Municipality of Anchorage; and the Anchorage Museum Foundation’s Alaska Airlines Silver Anniversary Fund for ongoing support of this solo exhibition series.

“Means Over Ends” is on view Oct. 7 through Nov. 20 at the Anchorage Museum