Critics’ Picks

Olga and Oleg Tatarintsev, Camouflage, 2017, MDF, varnish, faience and glaze, 39 3/8 x 27 1/2 x 29 1/2.''

Olga and Oleg Tatarintsev, Camouflage, 2017, MDF, varnish, faience and glaze, 39 3/8 x 27 1/2 x 29 1/2.''


Olga and Oleg Tatarintsev

ILONA–K artspace
1st Krasnogvardeyskiy Proyezd, 15 Mercury Tower, 40th Floor
September 9–November 30, 2020

Located in two capacious spaces on the second and fortieth floors of Moscow’s Mercury City Tower, gallery ILONA—K, the latest addition to Moscow’s art scene, opened with “Drowning by Numbers,” a presentation of works made over the last ten years by the artist duo Olga and Oleg Tatarintsev. The fantastically expensive real estate of the venue resonates with the shiny monumentalism of No Comment, 2013, an installation of large, gleaming balls and various pyramidal and spruce-shaped objects (reminiscent of sex toys) arranged on the floor. Here and elsewhere, these artists work in a post-Pop conceptual idiom—on the edge between mass-market design and Koonsian appropriation. A typical piece in this vein is Camouflage, 2017, a meter-high box is filled with multicolored faience and glaze animal figurines. In the show, sculptural works such as this are accompanied by abstract plexiglass panels, sometimes inscribed with snippets of confrontational text (I Am Not Answerable to You, 2020, and I’m Not Just Saying This, 2020).

One might expect find something solid behind the Tatarintsevs’ slick aesthetics. And yes, the duo does address difficult matters—from Chernobyl to Covid-19, world war to Wittgenstein—but they do so in a direct, even masscult way. In The Nature of Silence, 2017, for instance, the artists reproduce excerpts of Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951) on paper, occluding vast swaths of text with black paint. The work is supplemented by historical footage of crowds lining up to view the notorious 1937 Degenerate Art Exhibition. The work has the cumulative effect of a Steven Spielberg movie, with the emotional manipulation that characterizes that kind of cultural production. The political bathos here is enough to make one crave the affective and cognitive pleasures of abstraction, which, despite some of the artists’ more searching and difficult works, are drowned out by spectacle and bluster.

Due to possible Covid-19 restrictions, please confirm opening hours with the gallery before visiting