Critics’ Picks

Natalya Turnova, Krupskaya, 1990, oil on canvas, 74 13/16 x 63".

Natalya Turnova, Krupskaya, 1990, oil on canvas, 74 13/16 x 63".


“Žen d’Art: The Gender History of Art in the Post-Soviet Space, 1989–2009”

Moscow Museum of Modern Art
25 Petrovka Street (also at 10 Gogolevsky blvd, 9 Tverskoy blvd, and 17 Ermolaevsky lane)
September 11–October 31, 2010

Social equity was one of the principal priorities during the Soviet period of Russian history, and this extended, at least ideologically, to the pursuit of parity between men and women. With the collapse of the Soviet system, everything changed, not only political strategies but also social relationships, concerns, and values. Curated by Natalia Kamenetskaya and Oksana Sarkisyan, “Žen d’Art” considers the emergence of gender-oriented art in the post-Soviet era. In this exhibition, visitors engage in an intimate archaeology of Russian artistic projects (from 1989 to 2009) that take up femininity and bodily narratives. The show is divided according to a few broad themes: masquerade of identities, borders of gender, reflections on cultural codes, the exaltation of maternity, mental archaeology, and vulnerability.

Heroic, 2000–2005, by the Fourth Height group, is a series of photographs that depicts motherhood as a form of feminine heroism, while Alexandra Luniakova, Maria Ovchinnikova, and Denis Trusevich’s ironic The Indira Dry Cleaners and Laundry for Unsuccessful Paintings, 2009, critiques traditional roles for women by offering cleaning services to male artists. The Museum of a Woman, 1996–2000, by Tatiana Antoshina, consists of photographic replicas of classical paintings—such as The Turkish Bath by Ingres and The Oath of the Horatii by Jacques-Louis David—in which gender roles are inverted; thus women have the space of power while men are reduced to passive objects of desire. Finally, in the photograph The Perfect Couple, 2004, Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe dresses as both a man and a woman, addressing a constant in the show: the polysemic nature of concepts such as “masculine” and “feminine.”