Artists' Studios Through the Lens of Georgy Kiesewalter
December 9, 2021 - February 27, 2022
Curator: Elena Kuprina-Lyakhovich
The show will feature pictures taken by Georgy Kiesewalter at the studios of Soviet nonconformist artists as well as their own works created during what was to become the last decade of the USSR. On display at the exhibition are both famous and lesser-known works from the collection of Ekaterina and Vladimir Semenikhin, as well as from the collections owned by the MANI Museum, Mikhail Alshibaya, Elena Kuprina-Lyakhovich and Maxim Lyakhovich, and Georgy Kiesewalter.
Nowadays, Soviet underground artists have become household names in the history of both Russian and international art. Works by the likes of Ilya Kabakov, Nikita Alekseyev, Erik Bulatov, Francisco Infante, and many more are well known not only to art critics but also to all contemporary art lovers. However, we sometimes tend to forget that artists create their output not in a void but in a studio, which is an integral part not only of their creative process but also of their personality.
In the mid-1960s, the French philosopher Michel Foucault introduced the concept of heterotopia to describe a cultural space that is somehow other than the surrounding world and which is a sort of reflection of the environment while also contradicting and transforming it. Heterotopia is a "world within the world" with its own micromilieu and specific relationships between its tenants.
The studios of Soviet nonconformist artists could be easily compared with these heterotopias, where, as art historian and curator Andrey Erofeyev once cleverly noted, in the space of "the room matrix," new artistic and cultural narratives were forged, which later made a significant contribution to the eventual collapse of Soviet ideology and the emergence of a brand new type of homegrown culture. This is exactly why a studio has become the titular hero of the exhibition.
The show features one-of-a-kind photographs of studios made by Georgy Kiesewalter in the 1970s and 1980s. Captured in his pictures are the interiors of the studios; episodes of the creative process; completed works, many of which are now part of collections across the globe; openings of unauthorized exhibitions; parties and get-togethers, that is, all the small details that help viewers get a glimpse of the bygone era and experience its ambience. Logically enough, the pictures are exhibited next to works that were created by the artists in those studios.
In the Soviet years, when I would spend an afternoon visiting somebody's studio, I was always thrilled by the prospect of getting new emotions, making unexpected acquaintances and seeing amazing works by artists, whom I had already heard a lot about from my friends, but, obviously, had never had the chance to see their work on public display. It was a strange and, judging by some symptoms, almost schizophrenic time, characterized by a duality of life and later designated in history textbooks as an era of stagnation, where dullness, boredom and officialdom prevailed in the "external" "correct" world, while in the "internal" world - and I don't mean the spiritual world, but the interiors of unusual apartments, private "salons" and studios, which were only available to a limited circle of friends - one could find stunning manifestations of unorthodox minds and free thought, which were a stark contrast to the "outside" life.
An artist's studio, which is permeated with their creative energy, should be viewed as one of their works and, as such, analyzed with its context in mind. For a studio, its geography is what shapes the context. This is why the photos of studios on display at the exhibition come with information about the history and cultural background of the districts, streets and buildings where they were located. The show gives visitors an opportunity to embark on a tour of these long-gone heterotopias in the city, whose spaces eventually transcended their original confines to become a significant part of our modernity.
GEORGY KIESEWALTER (1955, Moscow) is a co-founder of the Collective Actions art group, he participated in most of the group's actions between 1976 and 1989. Since 1976, he has participated in unofficial art exhibitions. In 1982 - 1996, a member of the Apt-Art movement and the Moscow Avantgardists' Club (KLAVA), one of the compilers of the Moscow Archive of New Art (MANI). In 1982 - 1983, in cooperation with Vadim Zakharov, he released the album Around the Studios No. 1. In 1985, he released the second volume on his own. He has written several programs on Svoboda radio, as well as books, albums, and other publications about contemporary art and the history of photography.