Critics’ Picks

Leonid Sokov, Stalin and Marilyn (Two Profiles), 1989.

Leonid Sokov, Stalin and Marilyn (Two Profiles), 1989.

New York

“Remembrance: Russian Post-Modern Nostalgia”

Yeshiva University Museum
15 West 16th Street
September 10, 2003–February 2, 2004

This intelligently conceived show brings together work by twenty-four artists who grew up in the Soviet Union. Guest curator Alexandre Gertsman’s point—that nostalgia for the Soviet past unifies much of contemporary Russian art’s range of styles and practices—is well taken. Some works here engage Western art history and its politics: In Leonid Sokov’s wonderful Meeting of Two Sculptures, 1999, for example, Giacometti’s famous bronze walking man strides toward a full-color statue of Lenin (even more famous), as if the two icons were about to wage a battle. Even more striking is the dialogue set up among the generations of Russian art, from the early-twentieth-century avant-garde up through Sots Art and contemporary Conceptual practices. Both Erik Bulatov (sadly, represented by only one painting and one drawing) and Oleg Vassiliev layer slogans, symbols, and constructivist shapes over backgrounds rendered in the officially sanctioned socialist realist style. Rimma Gerlovina and Valery Gerlovin, with roots in '70s Soviet performance art, use photography to document their poetic transformations of the human body into pages for esoteric linguistic play. Alexander Kosolopov pulls visual material from avant-garde graphics, Stalinist sculpture, and Cubist painting to create the triptych Workers’ Club USSR, 1985. The discourse with Russia’s ever-present past effected by these postmodern artists contrasts sharply with Western art of the same genre, professing a remembrance that is both mournful and joyous.