Critics’ Picks

Xenia Kudrina, Left by the Fishers of Men, 2022, mixed media, dimensions variable.

Xenia Kudrina, Left by the Fishers of Men, 2022, mixed media, dimensions variable.


Xenia Kudrina

ISSMAG gallery
Malyy Karentnyy pereulok 9/1
February 10–February 24, 2022

Located in part of what used to be imperial stables, ISSMAG gallery is known for its chamber format. With the exhibition program “Camera Solitaria,” curator (and director of Moscow art school Institute BAZA) Svetlana Baskova takes the space-saving one step further, allowing each selected artist to use only one wall per show. For Left by the Fishers of Men, 2022, Xenia Kudrina painstakingly reconstructed an actual interior from her hometown Lensk in Yakutia, a region in Russia’s Far East. The wooden wall panels are lined with semi-empty bookshelves, grotesque masks, fishing nets, faded photos, sundry certificates of merit, vases (an Orthodox icon is hidden inside one), and, the most crucial element,paintings by the artist’s recently deceased father, Vasily Kudrin. Some of his canvases lean against the wall, so that the viewer can only see the author’s name, the work’s title, and technical information scrawled along the back. Others face the audience, revealing landscapes executed in a slightly naive manner, without close detail and keeping to a simple color scheme.

The exhibition calls to mind other contemporary forays into the tradition of total installations, including Autonomous Replicas, 2014, by Yan Ginzburg (then practicing as Yan Tamkovich), who used objects purchased from online auctions to speculate on the relationships among Cézanne, Braque, and Picasso, and Elena Elagina’s Laboratory of Great Work, 1996, a small museum dedicated to an alternative version of a real person: the biologist and legendary practitioner of Soviet pseudoscience Olga Lepeshinskaya. But the substantial distinction between those two projects and Kudrina’s lies in the fact that the latter’s protagonist is neither fictional nor famous; it is someone extremely significant to the artist alone. And, by looking at her father through that lens, Kudrina amplifies a very intimate experience, endowing a self-referential narrative with universal accessibility.