20 January – 26 February 2021
Syntax Gallery is pleased to present DTM, a new solo exhibition by Alexander Kosolapov – one of the key figures of the Sots Art movement.
“The quintessence of Sots Art is a masterful representation of what an aesthete and dogmatist would call a predicament. Since the Dada pioneer Marcel Duchamp, this idea has become the overarching theme of self-referential art, capable of critically comprehending its own context and forever parting with the chimera of aesthetic autonomy. What the Sots Art method that appeared in the USSR brought into the orbit of this predicament was the political system’s rigidity, and the squalor of the totalitarian state’s – which the USSR was – claims to be the ultimate authority in matters of beauty and taste.
Among fellow Sots-artists, Alexander Kosolapov is perhaps the most sensitive conductor arranging various historical artefacts. In their impact, the situations he conducts are comparable to the looming scandals of the great Russian literature (think Dostoevsky). Refined and meticulously put together, these situations bring about a premonition of a crash or a storm, which gets resolved in the very soul and consciousness of the viewer. After all, radical in their anti-servility and uncouth juxtapositions (the face of the Russian president integrated into Leonardo’s portrait of Mona Lisa) help the viewer liberate themselves from their lack of freedom, to overcome the dictates of authorities and fetishes. It’s not only classical art that has become a consumer fetish today – it’s the art of Duchamp himself, the author of the first embarrassing collage L.H.O.O.Q. (1919) commonly known as ‘Mona Lisa with a moustache’.
In his new show, Kosolapov utilizes the legacy of the avant-garde, Dada, the Renaissance and Pop Art. DTM stands for Duchamp, Malevich, Tatlin. In his arrangements, the artist moves these letters/memes/symbols around like chess pieces on a board. Tatlin’s Tower (The Monument to the Third International), Malevich’s Black Square, Duchamp’s Fountain, Avtomat Kalashnikova (AK-47) turn into gymnastics equipment at a girl athletes parade. It creates an intense but invisible erotic tension between Leni Riefenstahl’s fascist aesthetics, Soviet girl athletes parades and avant-garde artefacts, which, like the AK, suddenly become the likes of sex toys, gym apparatuses, and symbols.
The erotic confusion between construction, order, and destruction continues in the game of chess setting on the board populated by plaster copies of Duchamp’s Female Fig Leaf sculpture. The tension between the poles of life manifests itself in confusion about one’s own identity in the Neo-Pop triptych titled What’s Wrong With My Skin. In response to the BLM movement, the artist has depicted himself as a POC. The word LOVE embellished by a skull alludes to Warhol, as well as contemporary street art codes, and simultaneously hints at the Baroque vanitas tradition.
The sophisticated virtuosity of arranging themes that are uncomfortable to the consumer is the strongest quality of Alexander Kosolapov’s Social Art. The Mona Lisa – VVP portrait does not reveal its essence immediately: it unveils through motion, through prolonged contemplation of masterfully applied layers of paint. It would be worth mentioning an idea, brought up by Susan Sontag in her collection of essays, On Photography – that an artist draws analogies from the most dissimilar things”.
Alexander Kosolapov (b.1943, Moscow) is a Russian painter, sketch and drawing artist, sculptor and one of the key figures in Sots Art. Kosolapov attended the Secondary Art School of V. Surikov Art Institute and the Stroganov Art and Design College in Moscow, where he studied until 1968, with a break in between due to military service. In 1975 he emigrated to the USA, and has been living and working in New York since. Kosolapov’s works are based on an ironic and radical combination of recognizable symbols and stereotypes of Soviet ideology and global mass culture. Playing with images, the artist debunks both Soviet political myth-making and capitalist commodity fetishism. His works can be found in the collections of MOMA New York, the State Tretyakov Gallery, the Russian Museum and others.
The Syntax Gallery
Cube.Moscow, Tverskaya, 3, The Ritz-Carlton, Moscow, -2 level
Tuesday – Sunday 13:00-20:00
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