Nailya Alexander Gallery is pleased to present “Unforeseen,” a visual meditation on the notion of the Past. The exhibition features some thirty vintage prints from the period of 1926 through 1949 in Soviet Russia and work by three multimedia artists (all from the former Soviet Union): Svetlana Boym, Anna Frants and Igor Savchenko.
The photographs in the show are outside a propaganda context. Although personal and political are conjoined in Soviet photography, the exhibition focuses on images that have an aesthetic value and reflect the intimate and free expression of the individual photographer. It comes as surprising discovery that in the most trying times of Stalin’s reign, photographers produced poetic images that project peaceful moments, possess beauty and evoke mystery. Like memory imprints – every day occurrences, children at play, vacations, couples in love, night scenes and landscapes, they transcend the ordinary, evoking nostalgia for a fleeting moment of happiness or longing for a feeling no longer attainable. Together, they express a manifold past unveiled from unexpected angles.
The exhibition highlights such masters of Soviet photography as Arkady Shaikhet and Aleksandr Rodchenko, Max Penson and Ivan Shagin, Boris and Olga Ignatovich, Yakov Khalip and Emmanuil Evzerikhin along with work by less known photographers: A. Tsoukker, Mikhail Grachev, Nikolai Kubeev and Mikhail Prekhner. There are also prints by noted pictorialists Yuri Eremin and Vasily Ulitin, famous portraitist Moisey Nappelbaum and personal collages by Alexander Zhitomirsky.
The three contemporary artists Svetlana Boym (who is also a Professor of Slavic Languages and Literature at Harvard), Anna Frants (a curator and art critic based in NYC) and Igor Savchenko (also a writer based in Minsk, Belarus) interpret the Past from their personal perspectives.
For Svetlana Boym the notion of an unforeseen past is uncanny and unpredictable like the future. In “My Family Album”, 16‐second projections, made with a primitive multi‐burst mode in a digital camera, record the acts of touching family pictures. This syncopated mode dwells on the glare, cracks and folds of the image, laying bare photographic errors, passing shadows, and haunting memories. Anna Frants presents a freestanding video sculpture titled “Made in Greece, 1928” in which footage from the 1928‐1936 travels by a young cameraman Vyacheslav Burgov (who later became a legend of Soviet sound engineering) is projected on a Greek vase. Igor Savchenko has long been captivated by the phenomenon of time and the past, an interest especially visible in his photographic investigation from the late 1980s and continuing through the mid 1990s. The toned gelatin silver prints in the show are from the series “Alphabet of Gestures,” “Faceless,” “About Happiness” and “Mysteria.” Through the appropriation of old family albums and documents, he excavates fragments of a cherished past stored in our cultural memory, and explores their hidden secrets. He reveals the essences of things through gentle touches, lost expressions, fragile silhouettes and accessories, creating a chain of sensations and clues that allows us to enter a specific state of mind or mood evoked by his selection of materials.