The return of the work as miracle
With the name of Anatoly Osmolovsky, last year's "artist of the year," one can connect all of the most notable milestones of Russian art of the last two decades. His works are kept in many of the world's important museums; his exhibitions are held worldwide. Osmolovsky is a figure of determined incarnation of his own aesthetic strategy. His radicalism has evolved from the social and political gesture of the 1990s to the purity of the avant-garde form and autonomy of art. Today, his objects affirm formal expression as a relevant statement.
1969 born in Moscow
1990-92 leader of E.A.T. (Expropriation of Art Territories) Movement
1993-94 coordinator of Netsezeudik revolutionary competitive program
Radek magazine, editor-in-chief
1995 grantee of Berlin Senate at Kunstlerhais Betanien
1998 organizer of Nongovernmental control commission group
Organizer of Vote against everyone! Now Movement
2000 the founder of Radek community
Lives and works in Moscow
Anatoly Osmolovsky. From the series Bread
Wall-mounted objects, carved stained wood, dimensions vary
Anatoly Osmolovsky. Portal. We approached, but nothing happened;
something must have broken down
Wood, carving, wood stain, bronze insertions, 220õ190õ45 cm
Àlexander Evangely: Tolya, I would like for you to outline yourself the key elements in your relationship to the metaphor of "Russian Povera" in the context of what you are doing in art.
Ànatoly Osmolovsky: There is a tendency, which can be presented in different ways. [Curator] Evgenia Kikodze showed it in Urbanistic Formalism from the point of view of cold minimalism. Guelman, in doing Russian Povera, will show this tendency in a different way, based on the material he is using, with a different set of artists. The positive value of this idea is in the style, a movement being formed in art - that's what serious curatorial work is all about.
But I would define this tendency otherwise. I see as the most important today the aspect of the creation of works which get suspended somewhere between art and an undefined cult. The element of suspension between art and non-art has been typical of the avant-garde during the entire XXth century.
À.Å.: Are you talking about the intention to change the status of the work, about the movement from the commodified to the sacred? Sacralization, of course, would save art from market reducibility. It would bring art out of its consumerist captivity, like Moses did the Jews; it would bring art back to its home turf. But isn't it more of a gesture?
À.Î: Well, it's more of a subversive or simulative sacralization. Polissky is close to this approach, his ancient Slavic constructions or his ziggurats, which create the impression of a pagan temple. One should not speak of sacralization; what we are talking about here is the creation of an avant-garde object which is not self-evident, which gets suspended in consciousness. So that when you look at this thing, you don't understand what it is - art, or nonsense, or a poster, or some sort of experiment. This creation of a lack of clarity forces one to find a clear position in regards to oneself. Today, what predominates is this play with the sense of the cultic, i.e. the creation not of a specific cult, but of its spirit.
À.Å.: The avant-gardists appealed to the simple, "poor" forms of na?ve art. In the context of Russian Povera, what forms are you appealing to?
À.Î: To the icon, of course, among others. Only, it's not a stylization; I am not comparing myself with Malevich. I am more radical, in some sense. I take a substance - bread - and find visual solutions not embedded in it, which in a strange, mystical way appear, in how they unfold, in their contours, in the coincidence of cuts, faults and stains, close to an icon. They create the feel of an icon of an undefined religion. The Cathars, for instance, worshipped bread. There was a crusade against the Cathar heresy in the ÕIIIth century; they were all destroyed. It is not known exactly what it was they professed; their books were burnt. But what remained were legends about their rituals, in which an important role was played by a piece of bread that they would sanctify, dry, and worship. So in a humorous interpretation, I call my objects "Cathar icons." They are not "poor" at all; quite the contrary, my objects are refined. If a professional were to look at my pieces of wood, s/he would see right away that they are not hand-carved. The feeling of a miracle, when one does not understand how something was made, seems to me to be an important element. It wasn't there in Arte Povera.
À.Å.: Aside from pure plasticity, which suspends the imagination, what other vectors are there for you in the metaphor of "poor art"? You've spoken about a new trend in art, one that is defined, in part, through formal codes.
À.Î: This trend may be defined as the return of the work of art, but at a new stage, and, naturally, this new stage takes into account the entire experience of the XXth century. It's not just a painting or an object, but also, at the same time, something uncertain, which announces itself as a work. It's hard for me to find here some sort of ethical or social element. This tendency has not gotten its name yet. Different people who sense it try to name it in different ways, and different names compete between themselves - which one is more accurate. There is, undoubtedly, some element of povera that shines through these works. But it seems to me that "Russian povera" is not precise enough; one could be more precise. I am taking part in this project because I understand that it is not false, but at the same time, I am critical of its imprecision.
À.Å.: Don't you think that this exhibition enters into a polemic with that obvious trend of indecent wealth that invaded Russian art starting with Venice?
À.Î: Yes, I see that. That's a positive thing, that Russian Povera belongs to an anti-glamorous culture. A tendency which very clearly exists in the Moscow situation is, of course, towards glamour. There, one finds AES, later Kulik - not the things he is doing now, but the earlier ones, Dubossarsky-Vinogradov. I am not saying who is good or who is bad, just marking out a trend. Here, it is appropriate to use the word "poor"; it sharpens this aesthetic conflict.
SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS
2007-2008 Breads. M&J Guelman Gallery, Moscow
2007 Villa Romana. Florence, Italy
2006 Natalie Sarraute Golden Fruit. Contemporary City Foundation, Moscow
Elen's Shoulders (with Victor Alimpiev). Stella Art Gallery, Moscow
Hardware. Stella Art Gallery, Moscow
2004 Workshop Art Moscow. Central House of Artist, Moscow
The Way Political Positions Turn into Form. Stella Art Gallery, Moscow
2003 Seven Deaths in Moscow. XL Gallery, Moscow
2001 Workshop Art Moscow. Central House of Artist, Moscow
1997 Order for the Army of Arts. XL Gallery, Moscow
1996 Situative Action fur PDS. Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin
My Bloody Love. XL Gallery, Moscow
1994 My Way. M. Guelman Gallery, Moscow
1992 Leopards are Burstling Into the Temple... Regina Gallery, Moscow
1991 The Day of Knowledge (E.T.A Movement with Konstantin Zvezdochetov). Regina Gallery, Moscow
1999 Against Everyone. Lenin's Mausoleum, Red Square, Moscow
1998 Barricade. Gertsen street, Moscow
1996 Tsereteli's Witnesses. Peter the Great Monument, Moscow
1993 Travel to the Brobdingneg Land (Mayakovsky/Osmolovsky). Mayakovsky Square, Moscow
1991 Series of street performances-provocations (with E.A.T. Movement). Moscow
1989 Terrorism and Text. Theoretical seminar, Moscow State University, Moscow
SELECTED CURATORIAL PROJECTS
2004 Art With No Excuse. Shusev State Museum of Architecture, Moscow
2002 100 % vision. Regina Gallery, Moscow
2001 Instead of art. Zverev Ñenter for Contemporary Arts, Moscow
1996 New Revolutionary Radicalism. Conference and seminar, Museum of Mayakovsky, Moscow
Anti-Fascism & Anti-Anti-Fascism. Center of Contemporary Art, Moscow
1994 The Impudent, Insensitive, Ignorant... Regina Gallery, Moscow
1993 War is Going On. Center of Contemporary Art, Moscow
1990 Explosion of the New Wave (with Grigory Gusarov). French movies festival, Moscow
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
2008 Russian Povera. Project by Sergey Gordeev. Curator - Marat Guelman. Rechnoi Vokzal, Perm
Art-Moscow-2008. International Fair of Contemporary Art. Central House of Artists, Moscow
2007 Urban Formalism. Within the framework of the 2nd Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, Moscow Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow
Documenta 12. Kassel, Germany
2006 RUSSIA! Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Bilbao, Spain
Modus R. Russian Formalism Today. Within the framework of Art Basel Miami, Miami, Newton Building
2005 Accomplices. State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
Hope-Stop! Zverev Ñenter of Contemporary art, Moscow
Love: between Europe and Asia. IV biennale of contemporary art in Shiryaevo. Shiryaevo, Samara region
Russian Pop-art. State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
Angels of History. MuHKA, Antwerp, Belgium
Contested spaces in Post-Soviet Art: Russia Redux #2.. Sidney Mishkin Gallery, New-York, USA
2004 Berlin-Moscau/Moscau-Berlin 1950-2000. State Historical Museum, Moscow
Za Czerwonym Horyzontem. Zamek Ujazdowski, Warsaw
2003 Utopia Station. La 50 Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy
Berlin-Moscau/Moscau-Berlin 1950-2000. Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin
2002 25 Bienal de Sao Paulo. Sao Paulo
Horizons of Reality. Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Antwerpen, Belgium
1996 Steirische Herbst. Graz, Austria
1995 No Man's Land. Nikolaj Contemporary Art Centre, Copenhagen
Conjugations: Moscow Art Scene Today. Kraftmessen. Kunstlerwerkstatten. Munich, Germany
Caravanserai of Contemporary Art. Assozione culturale Arte Nova, Pescara, Italy
1994 Identity and Selfhood. Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki
Fluchtpunkt Moskau. Ludwig Forum, Aahen, Germany
Exchange II/Datsja. Almere, Flevopolder, Netherlands
1993 Trio acoustico: Dmitry Gutov, Yury Leiderman, Anatoly Osmolovsky. Centre pour la Creation Contemporaine, Tours, France
Aperto'93. La 45 Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy
Labour and Capital. Central House of Artist, Moscow
1992 Multiplicity Culture. Itinerari dell arte in un mondo che cambia. Museo del Folklore, Rome
4th International Biennale. Istanbul, Turkey
Territoria Italiano. Magazine "Documentario 2", Milan, Italy
Liasons Dangereaux. Centre of Contemporary Art, Moscow