Moscow

Aleksandr Kutovoy: Pour into Things

11 Apr - 10 May 2017

«Pour into things» project consists of two parts which are in visual and semantic tension. Huge painting of hippos on tarpaulin banner on the walls; in exhibition space – ceramic and bronze sculptures-statuettes seemingly stuck in thoroughness of monumental objects and statuettes-vases displayed on console tables. Upon a closer look sculptures appear to be strange hybrids: almost every of them resembles an iconic image of Lenin, a monument that happened to be in the streets and central squares of all the Soviet cities. Some portray Lenin clinging to Marx, digging himself in the beard of great communist messiah, others – almost coalescing with a body of centaur or balancing, like a figurine, between a tractor shovel and jaws of a hippo. Imprinted in collective memory, the image of “Lenin monument” mutates and revives before our eyes, bringing to mind a lot of subjects associated with animated, sensible statues – from Lucian to The Bronze Horseman.

 

But sculptures of Aleksandr Kutovoy do not obey the laws of literature, ironically playing with the subject of “rabid” statue; instead, they interact with the entire history of monumental sculpture – Soviet, in particular. In the years since Greek Sparta, monumental sculpture falls into line with certain canon: every sculptural image, representation of power holder was strictly regulated. Special subject is the so-called “leniniana” – thousands of monuments dedicated to the Soviet leader expanding all over Soviet Russia: from Perpetuation Committee (founded in 1924, Lenin's year of death) to experiments in 1960s and routine orders in 1970s-1980s, the iconography of Lenin images always varied (the leader, speaker, thinker, child and so on), but under strict control – from the author and iconography to materials.  

 

Academic sculptor by education, Kutovoy sorts out his relationship with monumental sculpture, making ceramic Lenin (anti-material for a monumental sculptor) look tender, warm, penitent, frightened, in need of care and shelter. Lenin of Kutovoy reaches after hugs; he disappears in heavy beard of Marx, coalesces with a mythical centaur and gets tossed up by a rude tractor.

This weird, childish tenderness to a monument seems to be rooted in generation memory about events of relatively recent past. Now the generation of 30-year-olds consists of people who have not become pioneers. Their childhood memories include late Soviet times relatively refracted: the queue for tights is a real adventure lasting for several series. Badge with young Ulyanov is a real treasure and the main accessory carefully put on a white apron. «There will be no more pioneers» - this child drama strangely called forth in big, common events that were shown on TV. It's not about “The Swan Lake” or burnt White House – child consciousness barely reacted to these things. It’s more about the monuments, upturned like puppets, about exaltation of a great number of people who were genuinely happy that the huge bronze giant was so easily detached from its pedestal. Later it will become clear, who’s the Iron Felix in the leather cloak and all the rest, but this “puppet” impression will remain for a long time. Obviously, recent events in Ukraine, mass destruction and “uprooting” of Soviet-era monuments complete the series of these vague child impressions. In his new project Alexander Kutovoy activates this block of emotional memory, restores the specific “playful” sensuality.

In the same time, within one exhibition the artist gives the opportunity to reflect over the metamorphoses of memory (child, adolescent, traumatic, communal etc.), going on through the work with archaic and ritual systems, as in his previous projects. (Metamechanics, 2016; In absence, 2015).

 

The exposition contains an object – three-headed mutant-hybrid looking like a triptych from Marx-Lenin-Stalin streamers. It is given in another plane, flattened, having become a peculiar totem.

Kutovoy recalls one story about the burial ceremony in some island tribe during which they made a totem of deceased person, deprived of portrait resemblance with him/her; then the totem was burnt and people inhaling the smoke were lettering the memory about deceased. For the artist it became the reminder that memory is not a regulated mechanism. It is the chain of scattered casts of reality that form the image of the past.

 

Aggressive creatures on the walls freely painted in blood-red yell, rising their jaws up to the sky. Like in monumental sculpture, Kutovoy here works with the format of banner. It becomes huge and there is no possibility to place it anywhere or take with you. These “banners” neither call for actions, nor confess, there are no slogans or ideological messages – just frightful screaming mash; meat energy of social body trying to break free.  Reincarnation or another life form of Hobbes’ “Leviathan”. This “war against everyone” surrounds miniature and defenseless monuments or, better to say, the casts of absurd characters, “cases” almost like in novels of Kharms, as if they succumb to sculptural formation.

 

 

Untitled, 2017, сeramics, glaze