Nomenclature of Signs (1986-1991)

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Untitled (Black 425)
Series "Nomenclature of Signs" (1986-1991), 1987

Unique photomontage on carboard with gelatin silver print

Image: 6 5/8 x 6 1/2 in. (17 x 16.7 cm)
Mount: 8 1/8 x 9 1/4 in. (20.5 x 23.5 cm)

Untitled (window)
Series "Nomenclature of Signs" (1986-1991), 1988

Unique mounted photomontage with gelatin silver print

Signed and dated in pencil on verso

Image: 6 5/8 x 6 1/2 in. (17 x 16.7 cm)
Mount: 8 1/8 x 9 1/4 in. (20.5 x 23.5 cm)

Untitled (KBG 425), 1988
Mounted collage with tissue, newspapers and gelatin silver print

Signed, titled and dated in pencil on verso

8 1/8 x 9 1/8 in. (20.6 x 23.2 cm)

Alexey Titarenko (b. 1962, St. Petersburg)

Untitled
Series "Nomenclature of Signs" 1986-1991, 1987

Mounted collage with tissue, newspapers and gelatin silver print

Image: 6 5/8 x 6 1/2 in. (17 x 16.7 cm)
Mount: 8 1/8 x 9 1/4 in. (20.5 x 23.5 cm)

AT500

Untitled (Meat, Fish), 1988
Unique mounted photomontage with gelatin silver print

Handmade by the artist in the darkroom, signed, dated on verso

Image: 6 5/8 x 6 1/2 in. (17 x 16.7 cm)
Mount: 8 1/8 x 9 1/4 in. (20.5 x 23.5 cm)

Untitled (Bus)
Series "Nomenclature of Signs" (1986-1991), 1988

Unique mounted photomontage with gelatin silver print

Image: 6 5/8 x 6 1/2 in. (17 x 16.7 cm)
Mount: 8 1/8 x 9 1/4 in. (20.5 x 23.5 cm)

Untitled (mural), 1986

Unique mounted photomontage with gelatin silver print

Handmade by the artist in the darkroom, signed, dated on verso

Image: 6 5/8 x 6 1/2 in. (17 x 16.7 cm)
Mount: 8 x 9 1/4 in. (20.5 x 23.5 cm)

Untitled (Athlete)
Series "Nomenclature of Signs" (1986-1991), 1987

Unique mounted photomontage with gelatin silver print

Image: 6 5/8 x 6 1/2 in. (17 x 16.7 cm)
Mount: 8 1/8 x 9 1/4 in. (20.5 x 23.5 cm)

Untitled (frieze), 1987

Unique mounted photomontage with gelatin silver print

Handmade by the artist in the darkroom, signed, dated on verso

Image: 6 5/8 x 6 1/2 in. (17 x 16.7 cm)
Mount: 8 x 9 1/4 in. (20.5 x 23.5 cm)

Untitled (Courtyard), 1987

Unique gelatin silver photomontage with bleaching and toning

Handmade by the artist in the darkroom, signed, dated on verso

Image: 13 3/8 x 13 3/4 in. (34 x 35 cm)
Paper: 14 3/8 x 17 1/8 in. (36.5 x 43.5 cm)

Untitled (Tree), 1989

Vintage toned gelatin silver print with iridescence

Hand made by the artist in the darkroom, signed, dated on verso

Image: 13 3/4 x 13 3/8 in. (35 x 34 cm)
Paper: 15 3/4 x 14 3/4 in. (40 x 37.5 cm)

Untitled (Economize electricity), 1987
Unique gelatin silver photomontage with bleaching and toning

Hand made by the artist in the darkroom, signed dated on verso
14 x 13 3/4 in. (35.6 x 34.9 cm)

Untitled (statue with numbers), 1986
Unique gelatin silver photomontage with bleaching and toning

Handmade in the darkroom by the artist, signed, dated on verso
13 ¼ x 13 ½ in. (33.7 x 34.3 cm)

Untitled (Kino), 1990
Vintage toned gelatin silver print with iridescence

Handmade by the artist in the darkroom, signed, dated on verso

Image: 13 3/4 x 13 3/8 in. (35 x 34 cm)
Paper: 16 x 15 3/4 in. (40.5 x 40 cm)

 

From Larousse Dictionnaire de la photographie, 1999:

 

“Titarenko expose (personnellement) à partir de 1983 à Leningrad (aujourd’hui Saint Petersbourg), à Paris en 1988 (galerie Drouart) et participe à des expositions de groupe à Saint-Pétersbourg encore, avec la série d’images Nomenklatura des signes. It dit, à propos de ce travail: “Pendant 73 ans de son existence, le pouvoir de la nomenklatura en U.R.S.S. s’est transformé en une autre nomenklatura des signes qui ont été inventés par la bureaucratie pour placer la vie humaine entre parenthèses de l’idéologie. L’absurde délirant a fait disparaître la véritable signification des choses: le magasin de viande se réduit au signe du magasin”.

Untitled (sausage/cheese), 1988
Vintage gelatin silver print with topic, by brush, silver reducing, bleaching and sepia toning.

Handmade by the artist in the darkroom, signed, dated on verso

Image: 13 3/4 x 13 3/8 in. (35 x 34 cm)
Paper: 16 1/8 x 15 in. (41 x 38 cm)

Untitled (Workerwoman), 1987

Unique gelatin silver photomontage with bleaching and toning
Handmade by the artist in the darkroom, signed dated on verso

7 x 7 in. (17.8 x 17.8 cm)

 

From Larousse Dictionnaire de la photographie, 1999:

 

“Titarenko expose (personnellement) à partir de 1983 à Leningrad (aujourd’hui Saint Petersbourg), à Paris en 1988 (galerie Drouart) et participe à des expositions de groupe à Saint-Pétersbourg encore, avec la série d’images Nomenklatura des signes. It dit, à propos de ce travail: “Pendant 73 ans de son existence, le pouvoir de la nomenklatura en U.R.S.S. s’est transformé en une autre nomenklatura des signes qui ont été inventés par la bureaucratie pour placer la vie humaine entre parenthèses de l’idéologie. L’absurde délirant a fait disparaître la véritable signification des choses: le magasin de viande se réduit au signe du magasin”.

Untitled (workerman), 1987
Unique gelatin silver photomontage with bleaching and toning

Handmade by the artist in the darkroom, signed, dated on verso

15 3/4 x 18 3/4 in. (40 x 47.7 cm)

Catalog for "Nomenclature of Signs
Month of Photography, Paris, 1992

The series “Nomenclature of Signs” is a biting critique of the Soviet class of powerful bureaucrats known as the nomenklatura. Titarenko especially criticizes Soviet visual propaganda such as posters, signs, slogans. In his view, the nomenklatura imposed propaganda upon the Soviet psyche, and deprived the Soviet person of their individuality and authenticity. Titarenko mocks this dehumanizing propaganda in his collages and photomontages by depicting the Soviet subject as an assemblage of prosaic signs and symbols. Inspired by the traditions of dada and futurism, Titarenko poetically destroys and recreates meaning from these signs in his collages by combining torn-up portraits, fragments from Leonid Brezhnev’s speeches, and scraps of red linen. With irreverence and biting humor, he expresses the need for deeper portrayals of human experience and its assortment of misfortunes, struggles and joys. 

Biography

Alexey Titarenko was born in Leningrad in 1962. At age 15, he became the youngest member of the independent photo club Zerkalo (Mirror). He graduated from the Department of Cinematic and Photographic Art at Leningrad’s Institute of Culture in 1983. His series of collages and photomontages Nomenklatura of Signs (first exhibited in 1988 in Leningrad) is a commentary on the Communist regime as an oppressive system hat converts citizens into mere signs. In 1989, Nomenklatura of Signs was included in Photostroyka, a major show of new Soviet photography that toured the US.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 he produced several series of photographs about the human condition of the Russian people during this time and the suffering they endured throughout the twentieth century. To illustrate links between the present and the past, he created powerful metaphors by introducing long exposure and intentional camera movement into street photography. The most well known series of this period is City of Shadows. In some images urban landscapes reiterate the Odessa Steps (also known as the Potemkin Stairs) scene from Sergei Eisenstein’s film Battleship Potemkin. Inspired by the music of Dmitri Shostakovich and the novels of Fyodor Dostoevsky, he also translated Dostoevsky’s version of the Russian soul into sometimes poetic, sometimes dramatic pictures of his native city, Saint Petersburg.

Titarenko’s St. Petersburg body of work from the 1990s won him worldwide recognition. In 2002 the International Photography Festival at Arles, France presented this work at the Reattu Museum in the exhibition, “Les quatres mouvements de St. Petersburg” curated by Gabriel Bauret. In 2005, the French-German TV Channel Arte produced a 30-minute documentary about Titarenko titled Alexey Titarenko: Art et la Maniere.

Titarenko’s prints are subtly crafted in the darkroom. Bleaching and toning add depth to his nuanced palette of grays, rendering each print a unique interpretation of his experience and imbuing his work with a personal and emotive visual character. This particular beauty was recently emphasized during the exhibition of his prints from his Havana series at the Getty Museum (Los Angeles, May-October 2011).

His works are in the collections of major European and American museums, including The State Russian Museum (St. Petersburg); The Getty Museum (Los Angeles); the Philadelphia Museum of Fine Art; George Eastman House (Rochester, N.Y.); the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston); The Museum of Fine Arts (Columbus, Ohio); the Museum of Fine Arts (Houston); the Museum of Photographic Arts (San Diego); the Davis Museum and Cultural Center at Wellesley College (Mass.); the European House of Photography (Paris); the Southeast Museum of Photography (Daytona Beach, Fla.); the Santa Barbara Museum of Fin Arts (Cal.); the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University (N.J.); the Reattu Museum of Fine Arts (Arles); and the Musee de l’Elysee Museum for Photography (Lausanne).

Selected Exhibitions

2017
Alexey Titarenko: The City is a Novel, Damiani Gallery, Bologna, Italy

2015
Alexey Titarenko: Photographs from St. Petersburg (1991-1999), Galerie C, Neufchâtel, Switzerland
Alexey Titarenko: St. Petersburg in Four Movements, Manège Royal, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Paris, France
Le parfums dans tous les sens, Jardins du Palais Royal, Paris, France

2012
Contemporary Russian Photography: Perestroika Liberalization and Experimentation, Fotofest, Houston, TX

2011
A Revolutionary Project: Cuba from Walker Evans to Now, the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA
Alexey Titarenko: Photographs 1986-2010, Lodz International Fotofest. Atlas Sztuki Gallery, Lodz, Poland
Soviet Photography in the 1980s from the Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection, Zimmerli Art Museum, New Brunswick, NJ

2010
Alexey Titarenko: Petersburg in Black & White, Late Revelations, Moscow International Photobiennale, Pobeda Gallery, Moscow, Russia

2008
Unfulfilled Time, curated by Gabriel Bauret, Thessaloniki Photo Biennale, Greece

2007
Vital signs: Place, George Eastman House, Rochester, NY
DE L’EUROPE. Photographies, essais, histoires", Centre National Audiovisuel de Luxembourg, Luxembourg

2004
St. Petersburg: City of Water and City of Shadows, FotoFest, Houston, TX

2002
Alexey Titarenko: Four Movements of St. Petersburg, Reattu Museum, Arles International Photography Festival, Arles, France
Time Regained: Fragments from St. Petersburg series, Manezh Central Exhibition Hall, Moscow, Russia

2000
Alexey Titarenko, Retrospective Exhibition, Galerie Municipale du Chateau d’eau, Festival Garonne, Toulouse, France

1996
Black and White Magic of St Petersburg, Month of European Culture in St. Petersburg, The Grand Hall of St. Petersburg Philharmonic Society, St. Petersburg

1993
Nomenklatura of Signs, Photopostcriptum project, State Russian Musuem, St. Petersburg, Russia

1990
Photostroyka: New Soviet Photography, Burden Gallery, Aperture Foundation, New York (followed by a three‐year U.S. tour)