This year Garage Museum is hosting its first Triennial of Contemporary Russian Art.
Garage is one of the best modern art spaces in Moscow, and I've always found curation to be one of their strongest points. This event is no exception.
The team of six curators chose to abandon the idea of a curatorial concept, opting instead for an analytical approach. Without giving a set brief for the show, they allowed the main themes, or directories, to arise from their analysis of the contemporary art scene in Russia and identification of common trends and subject matter in the works they reviewed.
I won't go into much detail describing each directory, as there are plenty of comprehensive guides already available online. Instead, I'm going to briefly outline the themes of the show, focusing more on specific works of art that grabbed my attention.
This section introduces the concept of a Master Figure - an artist whose influence spreads far beyond their physical presence and location.
One of the most interesting pieces here is Access Point (2016) by Dmitry Bulatov and Alexey Chebykin.
The 3D-printed model reflects in a metal cylinder to form the shape of a famous Tatlin tower when viewed from a certain perspective.
The inclusion of an organic element (grass) brings a sense of flux into an otherwise rigid architectural structure.
You can view the installation through a tablet, which uses the concept of altered reality in order to recreate the view of Petrograd in the 1920s.
Another cool piece in this section is A Room of Small Things (1992) by Pavel Aksenov.
A found myself really drawn to this installation - there's something very gentle and emotional about these objects, the way they are trapped in rigid concrete, frozen and half-alive, creating a hidden narrative and quiet, slightly eerie atmosphere.
Art in Action
Moving on to Art in Action, we find a selection of highly insightful and emotionally charged performance art, from Katrin Nenasheva carrying a heavy metal cot on her back to highlight the hardship of orphaned children subjected to the practice of corrective psychiatry, to Shvemy Sewing Cooperative, who create a lengthy sewing performance to contemplate things such as slave labour, social inequality and inhumane conditions often found in a modern workplace.
The most impressive piece for me though is Bruise (2014) by Anastasia Potemkina - a collection of watercolour paintings depicting traces of violence documented in Polaroid images above, coupled with a video of the artist getting a bruise-shaped tattoo.
These paintings are beautiful and incredibly disturbing - the way the watercolour medium adds levity and playfullness to a depiction of a painful, violent act reflects the way such occurrences are often treated by society, as well as questions the effect an artist's creative influence can have on our perspective of such things.
Fidelity to Place
This section highlights artists whose practice is particularly focused on their geographical location, the connection they feel to their surroundings and how these connections are represented in their work.
There are several interesting and thought-provoking pieces here, but it's Kirill Garshin's Deconstruction series (2013) that I enjoyed the most.
I'd like to note how nice it is to see such a 'classic' medium represented in such a show - unfortunately, there is a tendency among contemporary art curators to view painting as outdated, focusing heavily on moving image and digital art instead; a tendency I personally find abhorrent.
In this project the artist observes minor elements of his environment in a purposefully detached manner, paying close attention to things often overlooked at a cursory glance. The author combines modernist themes with an established hyper-reallist visual style to create a strong and unique form of expression, reflective of his vision.
This is a section dedicated to presenting artist whose entire practice is committed to creating their own system of communication, their own artistic language that goes beyond pure style. This is one of the largest section of the Triennial, presenting complex installations in various mediums.
One that immediately attracts the viewer's attention is the collection of Nikolay Panafidin's kinetic sculptures - I mean who doesn't like interactive art, right? I could spend ages (and I did) pressing various buttons and observing peculiar metal structures spinning around, morphing into various shapes and just generally being highly amusing.
Nearby is a spacious installation complex Salutary Emptiness (2012–2014) by Olga Subbotina and Mikhail Pavlukevich employs traditional materials treated in a particular way to create visuals reminiscent of space travel and the people's hopes and dreams associated with it.
Here we find artists who aim to use visual communication in order to transcend human language and address universal concepts and ideas. I gotta say, a lot of the art that I've seen here failed to leave a particular impression on me, its vague and cryptic nature rather contrary to the intended purpose. A notable exception is Current Amber (2012-) by Mayana Nasybullova which is elegant in its simplicity, carrying a clear message, without ever becoming too transparent and boring. This is largely due to author's choice of material - amber, which is universally recognised as a natural preservative, making the idea easily accessible to the viewer.
The last two sections are Local Histories of Art, which is a series of events and lectures happening throughout the Triennial, and Street Morphology - a number of outdoor pieces scattered around the park.
The Triennale is open for visitors until 14th of May, 2017.
Find a comprehensive exhibition guide here.