Critics’ Picks

Vladimir Kartashov, A Quiet Place, 2020, oil on canvas, 39 x 52".

Vladimir Kartashov, A Quiet Place, 2020, oil on canvas, 39 x 52".


Vladimir Kartashov

JART Gallery
3-Ya Yamskogo Polya Ulitsa, 9
November 15, 2020–February 14, 2021

This show, titled “Innocent Pranks. Technorococo,” marks the fourth exhibition organized by curator Sergey Khachaturov to feature the twenty-three-year-old Vladimir Kartashov. In 2018, the artist filled an entire hall of the Tsaritsyno Estate Museum with human-sized superhero and villain figures on canvas for the group show “Space Hypnosis.” A year later, in “Cosmorama XVIII,” he used plastic miniatures to erect a few rayoks—Russian traditional fairground peep shows—within the Museum of Moscow. (The third show, “The Concert of Birds,” is currently up at Tsaritsyno.) If these mischievous undertakings espoused a subversive facility with mass imagery, scale, and history, they did so at the expense of Khachaturov’s overall vision, often clashing with the work of other artists and these exhibitions’ environments.

The curator has ensured such missteps would not occur in this solo show, which takes place in a neutral white-walled basement in an expensive real estate complex non-ironically named Art Residence. Kartashov responded to this foolproof, almost absurdist nonspace in predictably unpredictable fashion, building a kind of stage set with a freestanding paperboard labyrinth, a structure that supports paintings while doubling as an artwork itself, filled with wispy sketches and carvings that allude to street art and anime as well as the sinuous décor of Baroque rocaille. A graduate of the Novosibirsk State Academy’s school, Kartashov here delivers paintings that are intentionally bad, made seemingly in haste: modern-day apathetic teenagers sulk in a fairyland populated not by elves and dwarves, but gadgets that range from Tamagotchi eggs and flip phones to VR-headsets, quadcopters, and AirPods. One side of the labyrinth seems to reprise characters from “Cosmorama XVIII,” while the other hides a grotto with hearts and miniature canvases in swan-shaped sculptural frames. Throughout, contemporary baubles and eighteenth-century tropes converge to form a realm of skewered, epoch-spanning decadence, one in which Kartashov is, finally, both jester and king.