Stray Dogs functions as a chapter in a book, and part of Maxim
Kantor's ever-evolding oeuvre. It is an intense visual projection of the
artist's thoughts, and, works alongside his texts, expanding their meaning.
Kantor's artistic stile in often compared to German expressionism, particularly
George Grosz, and there is similarity with Francisco Goya's series of
visions. His paintings have a dream-like quality, each with recurring
and striking imagery: a building, a three, a dog, a wasteland. Each image
has its own significance and becomes the centre of an individual work
at least once. In 10 stray dogs however, the images combine together to
server both as banal urban landscape and philosophical metaphor. The alienation
of every creature, even while belonging to a group or to society at large,
is a frequent subject of Kantor's works. He examines the conflict between
the herd-instinct and the wish to break free and assert individuality,
between the safety of a group and the fear that another being may cause
harm. Unlike Winter
Night, Kantor's painting of the same year with the similar
setting, the dogs here have not chosen to stay as a pack but are kept
together by the red fence. This reminds one of the red fence in Open
Society (2002) where people are stuck together, bound to
each other and yet desperate to escape.
It is never summer in Kantor's world: threes never blossom, houses look
uninhabitable and too small to protect against the chill. The only sign
of life comes from the dogs, as in the unusual portrait of a dog Motya (2001). Motya, highly likely Kantor's alter ego, appears in many of the
artist's works and might be recognized as one of ten dogs in the wasteland
in the present picture. Some of them are actively scampering around, howling
or peer desperately beyond the fence. Others remain impassive, waiting.
Kantor's philosophy is, in fact, not totally pessimistic but rather, as
pointed out by many critics, it is one of resigned acceptance".
quotation from the catalogue of the auction:
'Modern and contemporary russian art'. 15 february 2007
(L07110, #100, p.154)