Anvar Musrepov, IKEA Costume, 2017, IKEA shopping bags, cloth, 64 7⁄8 × 33 3⁄8 × 4". From “Alternative Theses.”

“Alternative Theses”

Esentai Gallery

There’s a growing sense of discontent with contemporary art. It is too homogeneous, critics argue, and curators seem fixated on a narrow set of themes—migration, gender and minority issues, environmentalism—that make exhibitions predictable and their concerns inauthentic. But that’s hardly true of the art being made today in the young republics of central Asia. “Alternative Theses,” a show curated by Togzhan Sakbayeva at Esentai Gallery in Almaty, Kazakhstan, presented plenty of examples of fresh perspectives, with works by twenty-four artists of different generations from Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

This is a young art that sprang up no more than a quarter century ago, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This may explain why many works were about carving out a distinctive cultural identity—an extraordinarily complex undertaking in societies in

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