Russian art, the trends and the meanings.
Russian fine art of the end of the 20th century dropped out of art critics view due to Perestroika. Sots art of Perestroika period was at the center of attention because there was quite a recognized political context, and the interest towards Russia, concerning politics was equal to zero. No one asks a question, where the Russian Atlantis escaped to, from which Malevich, Chagall, and Kandinsky went out. Crowds of people visited Ilia Kabakov’ s exhibitions and were looking at the gigantic panel “The schedule of carrying out the basket with dust” with adoration. Besides the carrying out of the dust basket is the exotics, which can be compared even with cannibal rite of some tribe unexpectedly discovered by ethnographers in jungles of myth.
A so-called academic, but in fact post-Cezanne tradition of quite respectable Soviet artists, who in equal degree separated themselves from Sots realism with its monumental panoramas of various battles and from Sots art with its inevitable affection to Soviet symbols, although with an opposite mark, couldn’t attract anyone’s attention.
As for the art proper, – aesthetically not retrograded and politically not conjuncture, it simply has not been discovered yet. While actually, it is there where one can find a display of free courage, exactly this art is the original, which are going to find at the marketplace of imitations.
During the totalitarian Soviet regime, any artist automatically became a dissident. Making a picture out of the Peredvizhniks’ (members of the Russian school of realist painters of the second half of 19th century) aesthetics caused to infliction a penalty. In this sense, there was not a problem for self-identification to any artist. Using Hegel’s words “distinctive reality” even if he paints pictures, but not posters. After Perestroiyka the situation was sharply changed. The disappearance of ideological and aesthetic censorship influenced the art of real authors, as they didn’t obey the prohibitions of the totalitarian regime, otherwise, they stopped being artists. But then every mediocrity “cocks a snook” in a pocket, covered with dust painting, which he had masked before in every possible way, but now starts furiously demonstrate it. Openhearted art critics for at least 15 years are delighted with this “cocking a snook” under the title “sots art”, “concept” or “post-modern”.
Russian art of the beginning of the 20-th century is pierced through metaphysics of space and time that were opened by Einstein. The artists were the first who broke away the borders of Newton’s aquarium, where in absolute time and space, there the golden fish swam. The aquarium was broken, and fish got wings instead fins. “ I open abyss, follow me aviators”, – claimed the author of “The black quadrant”. At the end of the 20th century, the admiration was changed into disappointment. Bright hopes and promises were failed. The universe of Einstein annihilated in Chernobyl, and among offered models of reality, the best is that doesn’t exist. Now not Einstein, but the linguistic philosophy of Karnap and Wittgenstein exerts direct and indirect influence upon the minds. The language is the single reality with which the artist works. And there are as many languages as there are stars in the sky. There appears new metaphysics. Now the artist pretends to make his own site in the space of virtual worlds. The art hasn’t known such a degree of freedom. The most totalitarian century of Russian history ends with the freest painting art. This freedom has been gained through much suffering.
All that happened according to the law of Lev Tolstoy, who said, “real life happens when it doesn’t demonstrate”. This album represents the real life of Russian art of the last decade. Its main peculiarity is the freedom from any social-cultural archetypes. Philosophy, aesthetics and any other ideology can’t give the fulcrum for today artist. Fed to the teeth with totalitarian ideology, the artist sees in any other ideology only a cunning mousetrap. He principally avoids systems of coding and self-coding. Finding out any recognized symbol in the works of these artists, you find nothing except symbols. There was represented an emblem at one of modern exhibitions, where in one monogram was included Jewish Star, fylfot, five angled star of Soviet times, Orthodox Cross and Soviet hammer and sickle. Does it mean that artist is of some interest to religions or ideologies, represented with these symbols? Absolutely not. But there isn’t declarative refuse from these systems. The artist uses offered language for his purposes. And the aim is only he. In this sense modern art – is constantly decoding the personality. All familiar languages and codes are used for one goal only – the goal of overcoming.
If Mikhail Molochnikov uses recognized elements of cosmic modules of El Lisitsky, this doesn’t mean that he is a follower of Lisitsky. The energy of Lisitsky’s modules is directed to outer space. Molochnikov is not a stranger to the elements of outer space, but only as a fragment for the cozy design of his studio interior. Pushkin, in works of Marina Gertsovskaya, has nothing in common with the classic poet Pushkin as dirigible semantically doesn’t identical to dirigible. Pushkin as dirigible and dirigible as Pushkin – that is nearer to the aim. To go out of the frames of suggested semantics, fly away – that is the aim of today artist. First of all contemporary Russian art is a flight away. Everybody has his or her own methods of flying away. For Marina Obukhova it is brutal rough Sots art, but placed on refined cloth, for Konstantinov – office forms, for Povzner – “tablets” and buttons. What they have in common? Only Beauty.
Here, we should remember the most quoted Dostoyevsky’ saying: “The beauty is a terrible force. The world will be saved by beauty”. This saying is used often, but mostly with an ironic tinge.
Nobody believes in the power of the beauty and neither that “the world will be saved” with its help. Beauty has lost its applied ideological meaning. It is in the least only beauty. The writer Varlaam Shalamov, in the past, a prisoner of Stalin’s camps, once exclaimed in despair: “I wish I could spit in the face of beauty”. Between the statements of Dostoyevsky and Shalamov there exists contemporary art. Only in this context it can be understood and felt.
There are strong and witty mystification, invented by Boris Grois, in contemporary art criticism. According to him avant-garde and Social Realism are children of one revolutionary ideology of transformation of the world. By his concept Malevich’ s “Black quadrant” and Yoganson’s “Interrogation of the Communist” are phenomena of the same order. Grois manages to involve the entire world in a fascinating play. In this play pompous, graph articles of Stalin’s Reich are regarded as equal to the paintings of Kandinsky. I think this game in the best sense is didactic, and it proves one more time that art will never be caught in the nets of art critics. To this extend Grois is playing into collectors’ hands. For two decades Western collectors and Soviet immigrants were groveling with nostalgia, broken Soviet roots, lonely hanging up in weightlessness of the free capitalist world, and with pleasure of buying exotics of Soviet propaganda art. The children of Soviet immigrants turned to Social Realism in the search of identity, imparted to its true metaphysical depth. In fact, Russian post modernism, including Sots Art and Conceptual Art – is realism today.
While the paintings, represented in this album, exist and have existed independently, they would be impossible without the Soviet context. This beauty doesn’t save the world, it saves only artist. The sources of this art came from Russian Avant-garde of the 20th century, but this time, it is not Utopia, it is only art, free from any utopian implications.
Source: Konstantin Kedrov.