Critics’ Picks

Installation view, 2006.

Installation view, 2006.


Valery Koshlyakov

18, Perevedenovsky Passage
May 20–June 14, 2006

Using cardboard, his signature material, Valery Koshlyakov has built a ruin of all the achievements of Soviet industry and engineering, collapsing one-sixth of the earth's surface into 8,600 square feet of space in a former paper factory. His paintings (a Far East seascape with fishing boats, a portrait of a miner) and sculptures (an oil derrick, a tractor, a towering structure reminiscent of Tatlin's designs for the Monument to the Third International) are arranged within this maze of cardboard walls and columns. The obstacles and irregular paths make viewing the exhibition like picking one’s way through the kind of Greek or Roman ruin that Koshlyakov paints when not excavating Soviet memory.

A streaky, surreal train-station timetable near the entrance lists cities from the Pacific to the Dnepr that would be inaccessible from a single, real-life station, emphasizing the dramatic scale change of Koshlyakov’s installation. Unlike larger-than-life Soviet monumental art, the installation makes the individual feel empowered, not insignificant, perhaps indicating a shift in Russian subjectivity. This is not the first time he has translated historical change into spatial relations. In Mausoleum, 2005, a tin-foil pipeline dwarfed a Styrofoam model of Lenin's tomb, reflecting how the source of Moscow's superpower pretensions had shifted from ideology to energy. If Koshlyakov addresses issues of space in the design of his installation, then his choice of material says something pertinent about time. Collectors have found that his cardboard sculptures, like empires, have a tendency to decay and crumble.