A Practice for Everyday Life: Young Artists from Russia, Calvert 22, London
Russian art, hung by a loose thread
Wednesday 30 March 2011
For Calvert 22, an institution devoted to enhancing the understanding of Russian and Eastern European art, it might seem that to put on an exhibition of emerging artists from Russia, as this show does, might be a natural thing to do. The idea is that a focus on new and interesting work from a country with a fast-developing young art scene will generate excitement and interest abroad, and perhaps focus discussions and understandings in Russia. In practice, however, to create an exhibition from such a general premise, and to make it communicate anything about Russia, or about the artists included, is, in fact a very difficult ask, and it's one which this exhibition doesn't really answer.
The eight young artists in this exhibition – Tanya Akhmetgalieva, Olga Bozhko, Alexander Ditmarov, Yulia Ivashkina, Sergey Ogurtsov, Taus Makhacheva, Anya Titova, Arseniy Zhilyaev – have been drawn from two developmental programmes in Russia run by the ICA, Moscow, and the Centre for Contemporary Art, Winzavod. Each artist's practice is wildly different, and as such, there's a feeling of disconnect in the exhibition. Though Ivashkina creates paintings of fragmented interior spaces, where dusty clouds and bright blue metropolitan scenes drift in and out of architectural spaces, these works appear to be operating in a completely different sphere to two other artists here who use domestic interiors in their work. Zhilyaev's installation Words (2010-11), featuring a tatty rug and chair in front of a television playing an amateur porn film, is an extended treatise on sex, existentialism and the reception of Jean-Paul Sartre in Russia, a fact made clear from the texts pinned around the space. Titova's House of Culture (2010) features a shelf structure affixed with several different panels of colour and framed images including fragments of graffiti, and refers to minimalism and conceptual art at the same time as social or ethnographic concerns. These last two works do manage to create an atmosphere and one does get some sense of the two artists' work; but it's hard to understand them within the context of the exhibition. Ditmarov's films, of a lonely billiards game and of people ascending on a ski lift in summer really did nothing much for me, whilst Ogurtsov's architectural sculptures made from folding philosophy books seemed rather over-simple as conceptual gestures.
Part of the problem here is that I don't believe that such a small selection of artists can tell us enough about contemporary art in Russia – it can only speak about a thread of work – and the curators haven't really managed to find that thread. Although the Moscow Conceptualists (Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, for example, or the Collective Actions group) are mentioned in the catalogue as reference points for the artists, ultimately, it's extremely difficult to see how this is the case. It feels more like the generalised conceptualism that characterises the international contemporary art world today. Russia's art, this exhibition seems to say, can rush seamlessly into this world. I'd rather we understood more about it first.
To 29 May (www.calvert22.org)
Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing
Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Germanwings crash: Police make 'significant discovery' at home of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz
- 2 Germanwings captain Patrick Sondenheimer tried to break into locked cockpit door 'with an axe' as plane was descending
- 3 Zayn Malik already working on solo material, just days after quitting One Direction
- 4 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 5 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
Jeremy Clarkson courted by Russian Ministry of Defence TV station to present motoring show
One Direction fans campaign to buy the band after Zayn Malik quits
Kay Burley 'bias' against Ed Miliband prompts 130 complaints to Ofcom
Zayn Malik already working on solo material, just days after quitting One Direction
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Germanwings plane crash live: Andreas Guenter Lubitz intentionally crashed flight 9525 into the Alps in act of mass murder and suicide – latest