Russian Contemporary Art at Saatchi

by David

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Gosha Ostretsov, sex in the city, 2008

Interesting what place Russia holds in the world of culture, and even more so visual culture. Are we to invest in the vision that since the fall of communism and glasnost, Russia is now a vibrant free place where the market drives the output of the creatives? Certainly the picture painted by the media is of the rich Russian oligarch funding new excesses in the acquisition of extravagant objects of wealth.

The artwork on the lower floors of the Saatchi is made by contemporary Russian artists since the fall of communism and seems to hint at this new legacy. Gone are the suprematist archetypes and constructivist politic. Certainly there is some bleakness and a distinct distance from a western vantage point, however there is polish and vibrancy in the works on display.

Cocks. Steel white icy blue eyed cocks. Pink hearts and forms of dusty pastel hue. It’s the art of survival in the cold. Living in legacies built on social ideals. Masters of architecture. Dominant displays of cardboard glory.

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Contrast this with the works from the show on the top floor that catalogue Soviet era work from 1960-1980. Here paintings seem firmly rooted in constructivist and suprematist legacy. Expressionism and Vorticism seem to anchor the work in what seems like a tame and barbless collection afraid of making anything other than pretty pictures. Pretty pictures smashed to pieces. Still just pretty pictures.

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