12.10.2017 — 31.01.2018
In English language, the word “reflexion” has an array of meanings related directly to the base concept. In relation to the shape, its first and foremost meaning is a reflection, a gleam or a shadow. It is not by accident that “Agatha” by Gregory Orekhov, the sculpture made of stainless steel, became the centerpiece that sets the tone for the whole exposition; its brightly polished surface reflects in a whimsical, yet recognizable way ceremonial “portraits” of all those who inhabit the Absolute Nursery. Those portraits are executed in an academic style reminiscent of masterpieces by Titian and Velasquez. The tumbler toy represents everything but itself, it doesn’t have its own identity and thanks to its design that allows the sculpture to sway back and forth it brings forward the question of instability. “Agatha” can be viewed as a rather paradoxical interpretation of “A Worker and a Kolkhoz Woman” sculpture. What Mukhinа shows as an impulsive movement towards the future becomes in Orekhov’s sculpture an act of balancing itself in the present. Besides, references to the reflection in the “mirror of time” become pretty obvious; chronologically, the exhibition covers the time-period that can be generally referred to as “the Soviet childhood” (ranging from Father Frost (Russian version of Santa Claus) made of paper mache and placed under the Christmas tree starting from the post-war times to Rubik’s snake, best-seller of mid‑1980-s and one of a few pop-culture artifacts of the socialist camp that was popular worldwide, transformed into a toy dog).
Another definition of the word is contemplation, meditation and introspection. The exhibition invites us to think about the existential problem of cycles, turning adults back into children that are once again facing familiar objects from their childhood. In this case, personal aspect becomes important as it helps perceive things through the eyes of a child that sees his/her adult reflection in toys (and on the post-Soviet space this cathartic effect of recognition is rather common).
Here, it seems appropriate to mention another meaning of the word “reflexion” — reproof, condemnation and — continuing the children’s discourse — punishment, lecturing; all this is directly related to another key theme of the exhibition, that of fathers and children, succession of generations. It reveals itself on many levels: “Agatha” by Gregory Orekhov is named after his daughter whose birth served as an impulse for Gregory to go back to sculpture which he neglected after the death of his father; not only do members of the “Russia” group follow similar esthetic principles in their work, but are also bound by family ties; not only do all participants of the exhibition in one or the other way use cultural paradigms in their work, but also simultaneously undergo some sort of psychoanalysis session. And hence it comes absolutely natural that a “portrait” of Cheburashka can be interpreted as “It” and a chocolate bunny can allude both to the “empty canon” of Moscow school of conceptualism and applied Freudianism with its unambiguous interpretation of sweetness and phallic shapes. The whole operating principle of a tumbler toy sends the audience back to essential psychoanalytical principles.
One can come up with an infinite number of concepts based on the main theme. As in a kaleidoscope, separate elements of the whole bend and transform (another signature childhood memory), at times multiplying most unbelievable and mutually excluding interpretations. But in any case, an attempt to come closer to the essence will inevitably lead to a situation where answers to the questions that seem impossible to find appear rather obvious. And it could not have been otherwise. A reflection appears only on the kind of surface that hides depth beneath.
Text: Stanislav Rostotskiy