ZDRAVSTVUYTE!: Group exhibition

26 July - 7 September 2023

"Hello!" (Zdravstvuyte!)


This is how, in fact, every dialogue with art begins — it is customary to get acquainted with a work first, and then enjoy meetings with one intensity or another. Greeting is implicitly embedded in our relationship with high art.

Sometimes this greeting becomes arrogantly when the author thematizes the meeting of art and non-art — in all these "Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet!", "Bonjour, Monsieur Gauguin!" there is clearly if not neglect, then deliberate distance with collectors-acquaintances-neighbors. The same alienation can be read in the unfastened hats of Rene Magritte and Joseph Beuys.

But the greeting on behalf of the oldest and largest Russian gallery of modern art, of course, sounds completely different — on the surface here is an appeal to all its old and new visitors with a playful reference to the famous joke "Hello again!". And in essence — without irony — a kind of general greeting accumulates here, the collective openness of the best works of wonderful artists, whom the gallery has been selecting and nurturing for thirty-three years. Among the proposed authors there are both the oldest friends of the gallery — the untimely departed Oleg Golosiy, for example — and new names like Mikhail Dolyanovsky.


Selecting works and forming a general exposition, the gallery proceeded from the belief that as a result of this new meeting, the viewer will have new dialogues / relationships with works that may be already familiar or seen for the first time.
Perhaps that is why the central place at the exhibition is given to works with a "floating", unstable image, as, for example, in the work of Semyon Faibisovich "Northern Lights from the cycle "At the stop"" in 2007. Created at the moment of the author's return to painting after a break in the nineties, it marks a new reality, now at the junction of chance and readymade. It should be noted that the change of analog photography to digital that took place over the years was perceived by Faibisovich with a fair amount of skepticism: new technologies have brought standardization and coarsening of the image, which the artist showed in the painting of the 2010s. Two faces — the poster girl and the hooded girl — appear as different angles of the same character, changing depending on the angle of view, as it was in the first stereo postcards in the pre-digital era. The simple effect of the obverse-reverse, facade and underside gives rise to a feeling of double bottom, inauthenticity, forgery.


Jack Pearson, an American photographer from the field of fashion and advertising, also found himself in contemporary art due to his ability to notice the cliches of popular culture, which he often exposes to the detriment of his own sensuality. P-Town — this could be the name of any American town with the letter "P", but here we are talking, of course, about Provincetown in Massachusetts, famous for its beaches, a favorite vacation spot for bohemians of different professions and orientations. Jerry, whom Pearson photographed in funny and exotic outfits and wigs, appears here as a surprisingly typical model — with a cute mustachioed face, but "without a face." A flirtatious pose, a colorful summer shirt, an inviting look attract and at the same time repel with their flat gloss, which Pearson instantly and unmistakably snatches from reality: in the photo, instead of a friend, a movie hero is shown, to love whom is naive and a little vulgar.


If Faibisovich and Pearson appear to be geniuses of arrangement and juxtaposition, then the art duo of Pavel Pepperstein and Sonya Stereostyrsky in their "Neat Ziggurat" prefers a "head-on" reception — their ziggurat is shown as a palimpsest plan of works superimposed on each other of various ages. At the top, the smallest and most visible in its entirety is a children's drawing, a portrait of Pavel Pepperstein's mother Irina Pivovarova, at the bottom is a fragment of his 1986 work "The Death of Marat". Following the logic of the name, the viewer should imagine a three-dimensional structure, the steps of which correspond to the years of life and creative periods, but the eye unclouded by this knowledge will see only rectangular fragments lying on top of each other, which could be a frame for the central children's drawing, if it were not so negligibly small. This insignificance completely changes the established interpretation of artistic creativity, overturning a huge psychoanalytic pyramid based on child fixation, which seems relevant today.


Works in which the image is deconstructed as a readymade are opposed by the works of artists who prefer synthesis. The image in this case can be of varying degrees of figurative recognition: from meticulous, almost bookish illustrativeness, like Egor Koshelev's, to complete abstraction by Vlad Kulkov. It is important that in all cases the author's gesture is in opposition to the context of modern life. So, speaking about his aesthetic guidelines, Koshelev mentions "Soviet heroics, stories about Ilyich in combination with Miller, Burroughs, Kesey, McKenna, Henry Rollins, G. G. Ellin. Having grown up on such a basis, it is difficult to put up with today's reality. So, you need to oppose her with some of your own." Maria Serebryakova calls her works "mental landscapes" woven from subconscious, shadow images. Vlad Kulkov calls his technique "calligrams", and this neologism focuses on calligraphy, whose graphic power helped, for example, in Islam to circumvent the ban on the image of people and animals (words that add up to a drawing do not violate this prohibition). For Jonathan Meze, strength lies in teenage nonconformism, with which his international career began and continues. Meze's painting is intentionally sloppy, scanty in color — just a mockery for connoisseurs of subtle colorism, at the same time it preserves the DNA of street graffiti, stunning with its transcendent arrogance and openness. This voluntarism, following one's own pictorial doctrine, is perhaps the most important example of inner freedom in art.

The predecessor of such an understanding of creative freedom based on irrationalism was Andre Breton, and some of the works of the exhibition can be interpreted precisely as greetings from surrealism. Erwin Wurm's "incomprehensible" boat has a direct reference to the molten dial from Salvador Dali's "The Permanence of Memory". It is surprising that the visionary picture corresponded to the stingy materialism of the pre-industrial era, and the Wurm model created in the empire of numbers was tactile and "homely".


Sergey Bratkov's revolvers from The Canceled Duel also come from Breton's "Second Manifesto of Surrealism" ("The simplest surrealist act is to take a revolver in your hands, go outside and shoot at the crowd at random, as far as possible"). However, the artist gives the weapon a local "vaccination" in the spirit of quarreling Kharms characters, canceling the murder — revolvers turn out to be decorative hooks for the quarrelsome cidulas of two failed maestros.

The fluidity of forms is brought to some unthinkable artistry in the painting of Viktor Alimpiev, who, polishing and honing silhouettes, comes to a virtuoso cutting off of excess - like a katana by Beatrix Kiddo. In his finely drawn images, you can see the convolutions of the ecorche, the drawing of the flesh under the skin, and the gaping black background correlates with some new, inhuman dimension in the structure of his paintings. Deaf black sounds like a tocsin, as evidence of new times, as a cosmic drama of the separation of the blue space of life and the airless black haze.


The canvases are close to Alimpiev's works, in which the theme of the "other" develops — that which is on the other side of the ordinary, which, resembling the familiar world, carries an obvious bit of the inhuman, inanimate. Sergey Zarva, Dmitry Shabalin, Ryan Mosley double our reality by reflecting it through the looking glass of horror. Clear references to mass culture and cinema contribute to the tension, because mass culture is an ideal preservative of the creepy, its dead do not die, and this "hello" /zdravstvuyte/ sounds like a creaky mechanical voice of a doll.


The logical conclusion of the exhibition series is a group of works that are united by the name-the appeal of Claire Fontaine: "Destruction makes you young." Here, on the flank of revolutionary destructiveness, there are wooden objects by Nestor Engelke and a painting by Ivan Chuikov from the series "Fragments of Postcards" in 2005, which today, almost twenty years after its creation, looks almost the most modern and corresponds to today's inquisitive gaze turned to the past — when and where is that puzzle, that fragment that episode, changing which, we would get a different picture of the world?

There are many works at the exhibition older than the work of Ivan Chuikov, so the meeting announced in the title of the project is so curious, large-scale and diverse. But the main thing in this is the challenge of linearity and inevitability, in the parameters of which, it seems, all life is enclosed today. This is the reverse idea — a return, repetition, a new meeting with the interesting and desirable: "Hello" (Zdravstvuyte!) contrasts historical straightforwardness with the sinusoid of love, where after each fall there is a take-off.


Evgenia Kikodze

Evgenia Kikojo